A certain amount of stress is a normal part of life but it is the overwhelming continued stress that affects us physically. Stress comes at us in many ways. It comes through our stressful American lifestyle which includes work, over activity, and our diets. Stress also comes at us as we focus on all the negative things around us and let fear and the cares of the world press us down. Stress comes through a performance mentality in which we are always striving to be the best and never being happy with ourselves and who God has created us to be. We have bought into the belief that performance plus works equals identity. As already mentioned, stress activates the brain to release a host of chemicals that affect us physically and if left unhindered may lead to physical illness. Chronically high levels of cortisol released during stress can lead to cell death in the hippocampus which is critical to forming long-term memories. The medical community has known for years that stress is a major factor in disease. Stress increases inflammation and inflammation is the key to most disease processes. Stress over times can deplete serotonin in the brain leading to depression and low levels of serotonin have also been linked to Obsessive Compulsive disease and aggression. Dopamine is also another important neurotransmitters that is involved in focus and sharp thinking. Stress can cause an overproduction of dopamine leading to anxiety and perfectionist behavior or an under production of dopamine causing inattentive and unmotivated behavior. Stress also can affect our short and long-term memory.
When we relax , our parasympathetic nervous system counteracts the harmful effects of stress. Our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing return to normal. Our muscles relax and our immune system is strengthened. Serotonin the calming hormone is released along with dopamine to improve focus. Nitrite oxide is also released which counteracts stress by taking care of free radical in the body that are involved in causing disease. A calm heart also releases calming hormones like Atrial Natriuretic Factor which produces a sense of peace with ourselves and others.
Proverbs 14:30 A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are life and health of the body but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness to the bones.
It is hard to believe but all these responses to stress are started with a thought and meditating on the wrong things but it is true. A study out of Virginia University has found that the brain is connected to the immune system through small vessels. So a happy heart really is good medicine and a cheerful minds works healing. The bible also says as a man thinks in his heart so he is. In the days to come we will look at how to combat stress and disease along with the power of our thoughts and our words.
Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
3 John 1:2 Dear friends, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you even as your soul is getting along well.
Further suggested reading:
The School of Education at John Hopkins University The Powerful Impact of Stress by Victoria Tennant
UVAToday They’ll Have to Rewrite the Textbooks by Josh Barney/ 3.21.16