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9 Mar
2015
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Beat Chronic Stress and Live Longer

Stress is a killer. There is no question about that. But stress is like a cigarette. The damage it does is slow and cumulative. You probably don’t realise the harm it’s doing until there is a health crisis and you find yourself asking “Why me?”

Don’t live with regret about the things you could have changed.

Stress, and the body’s response to it, is a natural and helpful process. It is a survival strategy. The problem is that it only evolved to deal with short-term stress, like escaping from a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, our bodies respond to our imaginary worlds as if they were real and so you can create a stress response just by thinking about something that scares you.

Most of us are incredibly skilled at imagining the worst outcomes for things that haven’t happened yet. We are also incredibly good at creating a whole host of troubling scenarios as we try to control a future problem. We have this crazy idea that if we worry about something enough then that will enable us to cope. It’s not true. We cope better when our reaction is spontaneous.

Because the body was never designed to deal with long-term stress, and because the body’s stress response was only ever for dealing with real, rather than imagined, threats, the body has no way of dealing with chronic stress.

Chronic stress creates negative health consequences. It has a negative impact on your immune system, it can indirectly affect your cardiovascular health, and there is now direct evidence that stress can shorten your life by around 8 years.

Stress & Immune System Responses

Stress wears away at your immune system. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and Ronald Glaser, PhD, noticed that the immunity of medical students was lowered during their three day exam period each year. They had fewer natural killer cells, and produced less gamma-interferon – which boosts immunity. So if you suffer from frequent minor illnesses – like colds – then that’s a good sign that you are not dealing effectively with the stresses in your life.

Another study by Richard Davidson (University of Wisconsin) clearly linked negative thoughts to lowered antibody levels and positive thoughts to increased immune system activity. This is clear evidence that your mind, and what you think, has a direct impact on your health.

Stress & Heart Health

There is no direct link between stress and hypertension, or stress and heart health generally, but there is an indirect link. When we are stressed, we tend to overeat; we fail to exercise sufficiently – simply because there’s so much to do and so little time to do it; and we can find ourselves drinking more alcohol than we know is sensible. All of these things do push blood pressure up and they also have a negative impact on heart health.

If heart disease is already present, then sudden severe stress can trigger a heart attack. The associated sudden rise in blood pressure can also cause a stroke.

Stress & DNA

Another study by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser et al looked at the impact of stress on the ends of DNA strands. Chromosome ends are protected by telomeres. As we get older these protective covers wear and get shorter. The length of an individual’s telomeres are linked to how long they live. In this study it was discovered that chronic stress causes wear and tear on the telomeres – thus shortening life. Those who participated in the study were caregivers for parents with Alzheimer’s. An earlier study reported a similar life-shortening impact on mothers of chronically ill children.

It seems that chronic stress will knock 4-8 years off your life.

How to live longer

Stress is really about your mind and what you do with it. It might seem, at times, that it’s all about the pressures of earning a living and paying bills; or about the pressure that other people – like managers and family members – place on you. It might even seem to be about you never being quite good enough and spending your life trying to prove that you are. So you push yourself constantly to do better, all the while repeating that mantra It’s not good enough – a mantra that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The solution is simple, just not easy. But then nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Without at least a little challenge we tend to undervalue the results. When we put a little effort in to learn a new skill we feel good about ourselves and value our accomplishment.

What you have to do is learn how to take control of your mind and learn to let go of those things that do not serve you.

If you are willing to put the effort in to learn that new, life-enhancing, skill, then first of all download my free book Freedom by filling in your details on the right – just underneath the book cover. If you like my style, then invest in a copy of Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis. This is available in Kindle or paperback from Amazon, or from iBooks if you like to read on your iDevice.

Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis is filled with tips, strategies and techniques to deal with the stresses in your life. It takes you, step by step, through the process of retraining your thought patterns and how to use your mind to ease the stresses in your life that are caused by anything from a relationship that isn’t working to dealing with challenges in the work place.

If you prefer to listen than to read then check out the guided visualisations on my download page. The chakra meditation is highly recommended.

 

If you have any questions about dealing with stress then leave a comment below.

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