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#Stress: Leave the Dreaded S-Word Behind

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Here is a staggering statistic to consider. Today, four out of every five Americans suffer from or will be affected by cardiovascular disease, cancer, autism, dementia, auto-immune deficiencies, or obesity. That is 80 percent, folks! Yet medical researchers in trial after trial, test after test, point to one simple culprit … stress.

Stress is at the core of nearly every disease and dysfunction. Sadly, the dreaded S-word is a companion to virtually every person’s daily life. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

In his latest book, Unhealthy Anonymous, Dr. Pete Sulack believes that by following a few logical but practical steps a person can avoid the perils and pitfalls brought on by anything that threatens your well-being.

I recently sat down with Dr. Sulack to discuss the inevitability of stress, practical ways to decrease it, and some tips on how to live life as God intended it.

I understand that you have been called “America’s Leading Stress Expert”. What does that entail?

I think it’s the result of the opportunity I have had to serve over a million patients over the last 13 years that come from all over the world.  The biggest thing for me is that stress is the culprit with virtually every patient I see.  We look at the effects of stress as the abnormality and common pathology but high blood pressure, heart disease; those things come from the effects of stress.  Stress is the culprit.  I believe that if we can identify the true culprit then we can get healthy. 

I know a lot of people that do well with combating stress. However, there are others who aren’t quite as fortunate. Is stress just something that is innate in us as humans? Is it inevitable that everyone will have some level of stress? 

Everyone has it.  A little stress in people actually serves as a motivator.  I like my staff and employees to be under a little stress because it keeps them productive.  More stress complicates but a lot of stress is what deteriorates.  Chronic illness is the result of inflammation which is the result of the body’s inability to recover from stress.  So, if I am at a zoo and I see a tiger on the loose I am going to run for my life.  My body will adapt physiologically – my heart rate and blood pressure will go up, my digestive and immune systems will shut down.  It’s a protective mechanism to deal with that stress.  But when they cage the tiger your body chemistry comes back to normal. It’s when I have to run away from a tiger forever – that’s chronic illness.  That’s when the body breaks down.  A little stress is a good thing.  That’s how the body was created – fearfully and wonderfully made – but when that becomes prolonged, now the body breaks down.  So, instead of looking at the effects of stress I need to cage that tiger to increase my resiliency to deal with that stress.

Your book Unhealthy Anonymous is divided into 12 parts with chapters on topics like detox, gratitude, strength, generosity, etc … What was your intention for structuring the book the way that you did?

I tried to ask myself what were the things that really are the key foundational steps that people need to really increase their resilience in their body to deal with the great pandemic of stress.  The first one was to identify.  Identify, first of all, deals with more than feeling good because people assume that if they feel good, they are healthy.  If you’re not broke, don’t fix it.  If people feel good and then die from a heart attack or feel good and have cancer, something is wrong.  We go through things like who you surround yourself with, the community you surround yourself with.  I would like to say that those who I surround myself with are the soil that helps germinate the seeds that I plant.  So, people around me who are condemning and judgmental, you are not going to produce good fruit.  But if there is grace that is offered to you, or people who can help you along on your journey, creating a safe place, we believe you can be a lot more fruitful and a lot more productive.  And then, even the choices you make, choice is so huge because the choices I make are in alignment with the vision for my life propels that vision.  But if I make choices that are outside of the vision for my life then they take me off course.  So, if I want to be healthy and want to propel that … things like I want to lose weight … there are choices that I will make that will either propel that or deter me from that.  The other step I would like to mention is the final one, generosity.  We believe that if the first 11 steps are the foundation then generosity is the capstone.  Capstone means “to cope”.  Cope means to protect the foundation that was laid.  Those who give lavishly, reap lavishly.  Those who are generous will be refreshed.  Those who refresh others will be refreshed themselves.  We believe that for anybody, if you are going to protect and really help your body become resilient to stress, generosity is the key to hold everything else all together.

What are some practical ways that we can decrease stress in our homes?

Stress is inevitable.  The biggest thing is asking yourself how you can increase your resiliency to dealing with stress.  How do I increase the resiliency for my body to adapt to the effects of stress?  I want my body to physiologically adapt to stress.  The problem becomes when it stops recovering.  When it stops coming back to homeostasis and rest.  That’s my biggest objective.  I believe that if we apply these 12 steps, no matter who you are, no matter what stress comes against you; you can build up a resiliency to deal with this great pandemic that is effecting America and effecting people more than anything else.

Most Americans spend time in the home but they spend just as much or more of their time in the workplace. What advice can you offer to people who suffer from workplace stress?

The biggest thing I have found to help is that when I can begin to embrace my weaknesses.  We like to be very confident in our strengths.  But when we can embrace our weaknesses and surround ourselves with people who are strong in areas where we are weak.  It’s like that pastor who is the janitor, the pastor, the elder, the deacon, and doing everything compared to the pastor who embraces his weaknesses and in a position to have people help him.  So, he begins to surround himself with people who can help.  One puts one thousand to flight, two put two thousand to flight … and now all of the sudden we can become more productive.  We can bear more fruit.  I have found in my own life that when I began to embrace those things that I am not good at and surround myself with people that are, I felt a lot better about myself.  Also know that in my weakness God’s strength is perfect.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  I believe there is a lot more freedom and liberty that comes that way.

As we have been discussing stress can be very debilitating in a person’s life if not managed properly.  Do you have any basic tips for people that can help them live their lives as God intended?

This sounds so simple but just have fun.  Know that in the Body of Christ we are the Lord’s.  We are not here to build our own kingdom.  We are here to advance His.  His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  But we put on false expectations on our lives.  We determine that this is where I’m going to go and by hell or high water I’m going to get there.  But the Lord says, “Son, many are your plans but I order your steps.” Relax.  Rest. He also says, “I lead you beside still waters where there is rest for your soul.” Take some time away.  Get refreshed.  Take a vacation.  Don’t burn the candle at both ends.  Hydrate yourself.  Get moving and get some exercise.  Just enjoy your life.  Be grateful.  So, often we allow ourselves to become such pessimists.  We need just to be grateful for what we have been given.  Don’t take for granted the simple things we have been given in life.

As an author, what is your greatest hope for Unhealthy Anonymous?

I want people to know that there is hope.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick.  Hope fulfilled propels your life no matter where you are. If we can get you moving in the right direction you can develop a happy and healthy life.  I like to tell my patients that no matter where they are at on their journey, even if they are at death’s door, you can still get yourself moving in the right direction.  There are far too many people who feel good and die of heart attacks.  Never assume you are ok.  That is playing Russian roulette with your life.  So, no matter where you are you can reduce stress.  Anything is possible.  Literally anything.

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