Is Stress Managing You?

By Martha Pyron M.D. – September 1, 2014

What does the mind-body connection have to do with health? Stress is one way that easily illustrates how the mind and body are connected. Of course, the mind tells the body to walk, talk, or any of the millions of things people do every day, but the body also talks to the mind. And, if we are carefully listening to what it is saying, we will be able better able to take care of ourselves. 

Have you ever become nauseous after a tough discussion? Felt your heart pounding after an argument? Hyperventilated after almost getting into a car wreck? How about that feeling of euphoria after completing a tough workout or race? These are all ways the body speaks to the mind. Some of it feels good, some of it doesn’t.

So, the reason we get nauseated when stressed or upset is because the body has made more stomach acid due to the signals received from the brain. Likewise, the heart pounds after an argument because the brain told it to beat faster. Simple explanations, but why make more stomach acid or have the heart beat faster just because of an upsetting discussion? It is related to a human’s hard wiring from generations ago, when decisions might have resulted in life or death situations. Stress, after all, is what causes us to run when chased by a tiger and ensures that the heart is beating fast, eyes are alert, stomach is empty, and mind focused on one and only one thing—running fast.

Now, there are no literal tigers in today’s workplace or home, but the body, when stressed, still reacts as if there were. For those paying attention to these bodily reactions, they’re the cues to look for the figurative tiger in the room.
What does all this have to do with health? Well, without any stress, there are no changes and, therefore, stagnation. So, stress is good for initiating change. But, if there is too much stress without initiating change, it can take a toll on the body. Examples of health problems related to too much stress are headaches, stomachaches, hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, just to name a few.

It’s important to pay attention when the body is talking to you about stress. This means it is time to make changes and run away from that tiger by resolving or avoiding stressful situations. See your doctor to help with the symptoms of stress—i.e., treat the headache, stomachache, or insomnia—and make sure to ascertain where the tiger is hiding to create the appropriate changes in your life. afm

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