Christian Living

Healthy Living

Why Stress Kills and What You Can Do

Beware of choosing the wrong attitude. It can literally kill you.

There are big dangers looming for your health if you choose stress. This is indeed a choice, and it's a deadly one. In fact, the more scientists learn about stress, the more they realize it's more harmful than they previously realized.

Stress produces a chemical response in our body to which we rarely pay attention. When we have bad emotions, stressful emotions, such as anger, depression, frustration, a sense of unfairness, we secrete adrenaline and cortizol throughout the body.

Most of us have heard about adrenaline. It is what gives us super-human strength and speed. It's a gift from God, to be sure, but is only supposed to be used under certain circumstances: in an emergency, and only for a very short period of time, such as 5 minutes or less....20 minutes tops.

So for example, if you were out in the woods and a mountain lion jumps out at you, wonderful adrenaline would kick in and would give you the ability to literally run for your life. A short time later, when the danger subsided, you would stop secreting adrenaline and your body would go back to its normal, peaceful functioning. That's the way it's supposed to work.

If you understand how adrenaline and cortizol work, then you can understand why their constant secretion is deadly.

When adrenaline and cortizol are secreted, your body turns-off vital machinery in every single cell. In other words, your body stops it's regular healthy functioning, such as warding-off disease and metabolizing vitamins. They turn off the parts of our body that are built to repair us, to redo the damage that comes from daily life, to keep our cells young and nourished and healthy.

That's actually not a problem if, and only if, it's for a short time. Adrenaline and cortizol cause your entire body to shut down and divert its energy to focus in unison, on the crisis at hand. It's sort of like a village of people where everyone has their various tasks to perform, but when the village is under attack, everyone stops their regular jobs and joins together to fight the enemy. When the enemy is defeated, they go back to their jobs.

That's important. Imagine what would happen to that village if nobody ever went back to their regular jobs and was just positioned for battle all the time? The village would fall apart.

Now you can see why the problem with stress is that adrenaline and cortizol are CONSTANTLY SECRETED. In a bad, toxic situation you can experience stress for hours or days or weeks or months or years! All that time your body is secreting adrenaline and cortizol, because it feels like it's in crisis mode, all the while, every cell in your body ages and the sum of that is you going downhill.

It's also quite likely that they let the cancer cells escape the immune surveillance system, that they accelerate the inflammatory damage of atherosclerosis and leads to heart attacks and strokes. We know that cancer, heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer's are driven very powerfully by stress.

The good news is most of these things reverse very quickly.

If you go from stressed to peaceful, add in a shift from a sedentary lifestyle to a fit one, your rate of heart disease reduces by half. Same for the risk of Alzheimer's, some cancer risks go down, too. When you have a positive emotional attitude and you are relaxed, you have a much healthier, freer flow of blood through your brain.

That means your brain can regulate the rest of your body far more effectively. All of your blood vessels relax and so blood flows exactly where it's needed in your body. It brings the right chemicals, the right nutrients, you can heal in all the different areas that otherwise are chewed-up with stress.

When researchers conduct MRI scans of people who are visualizing happy, optimistic circumstances versus stressful ones, not only do they see changes in blood flow to the brain and massive changes in blood flow, but they measure all kinds of changes in blood pressure, in heart rate, in blood flow to the legs, blood flow to the kidneys, throughout the body you are always changing it for better or worse by how you feel.

So how do you reduce stress? First and foremost establish a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Throughout scripture we are commanded to trust God, fear not, don't worry. So we need to obey God in his command to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and know that God will take care of us beyond that.

In other words, stop worrying about every little thing and only focus on doing God's will. That's going to bust that stress.

Pray for peace, ask God to give you peace. He will.

There are a couple of other things you can do. Exercise is a natural stress-reliever. Prayer has also been proven to relieve stress. Get enough sleep, preferably eight hours a night.

When we understand how devastating stress is to our health, we are motivated to make minimizing it a top priority.