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If an epidemic is defined as a disease that affects whole populations without having a medical cure, then the epidemic of modern life is stress.
Stress itself is not a disease, but it instead leads to a breakdown in the body's internal balance, or homeostasis, and from that point onward, if the stress isn't relieved, damage occurs from within. Ironically, most modern people in a developed country do not experience acute stress, the kind that triggers a full-blown fight-or-flight response. There is no battlefront, civil war, rampant violent crime, or struggle over food and water to contend with.
Our epidemic is silent and hidden, in the form of low-level chronic stress. The natural purpose of the body's stress response is to trigger heightened alertness and energy for a short period, a matter of minutes or at most an hour, when fighting or fleeing is a matter of survival. When stress becomes chronic, a "normal" way of life that people believe they have adapted to, stress hormones become a drip-drip in the background of the physiology, and over time, three stages of damage begin to appear:
In our latest book, The Healing Self, we go into great detail about how to personalize your own stress-reduction program. But for everyone, there needs to be conscious coping mechanisms in the face of everyday stress. Let’s say you’re at the airport and find out that your flight has been canceled. The airline won’t bring another airplane into service but tells you that you must wait five hours until a flight arrives that can accommodate you. With no alternative except to comply with the airline’s mistreatment, passengers look passive as they sit and wait, but on the inside many people will react (perhaps you) with the following responses, all are self-defeating:
If you see yourself in any of these behaviors and attitudes, you are fooling yourself into believing that you are adapting to stress. As your body experiences it, however, you have become the stressor yourself. That’s because an external event (canceled flight) must go through an internal interpretation before it triggers the stress response.
Unlike a crisis like losing your job, a flight delay belongs in the category of everyday chronic stresses, which means that you have a choice to respond. Worry, complaining, and pessimism are unconscious responses. People who are stuck in them have become the victims of old reactions that became glued in place because the person didn’t reevaluate them.
Some people handle a canceled flight better than others. Just as we gave you the “baby solution” for acute stress, here’s the “airport solution” for low-level everyday stress.
All of these things are positive adaptations, as opposed to the negativity of worry, complaining, and pessimism. They bring awareness into a situation where falling back on passive acceptance isn’t the right answer. Beneath the attitude of “I have to put up with it” lies stress.
In most everyday situations, you have the option of turning the situation around by interpreting it not as bad luck but as a non-stress, to which you respond by doing things you actually want to do, like meditating, connecting with a friend, or shopping. When you become adept at this turnaround, chronic stress is nipped in the bud. You cut short a process that otherwise would have affected your body and mind negatively.
Experienced a personalized, revolutionary approach to stress management at our six-day Perfect Health retreat, which includes a one-hour consultation with a mind-body medical doctor, detoxifying daily spa treatments catered to your unique needs, and wellness practices for your individual constitution. Learn More.