So many of us in today’s world talk about being ‘stressed out.’ We all have an understanding that having lots of stress in our lives isn’t exactly good for our health. Yet having stress has become such an ongoing experience that most of us have come to accept it as a way of life. We ignore or are unaware of the signs and symptoms of stress until something happens with our physical or emotional health, our relationships, or our work. So what is stress really doing to us and to our bodies?
In order to understand this, we need to know about the fight or flight response. When we perceive danger, our bodies automatically respond by preparing us to fight or flee in order to survive. The part of our brain responsible for this response, the amygdala instantaneously sends out the alert and the body responds just as quickly. The heart beats faster raising blood pressure; breathing increases and becomes shallow; the body releases adrenaline and the stress hormone, cortisol; blood is shunted away from internal organs – including the brain – forced to our extremities, fueling and tensing muscles; and the brain lasers in on the danger. This is an excellent system, designed for short bursts of power in order to escape from becoming that saber-toothed tiger’s dinner, or to fight an invading warrior. Once the danger is over, the system is intended to return to its most natural state of growth and relaxation.
Stress occurs when we do not return to our natural state but remain in the fight or flight response. In modern times, our saber-toothed tigers are traffic jams, missing a deadline, bouncing a check, caring for aging parents, an argument with a boss or spouse, long work hours, that impatient driver who weaves in and out of traffic, etc., etc. We cannot run away from nor fight these modern day tigers. And when they show up, we feel emotions such as frustration, irritation, anger, anxiety, overwhelm, guilt, or worry. Our brains, unable to distinguish between an actual physical threat to our wellbeing and these negative emotions, initiate the fight or flight response each time we feel these emotions. What this means is, we become stuck in survival mode over events that pose no real threat to our physical survival. Our life becomes a series of short-term emergencies and we lose the ability to relax and enjoy, living from crisis to crisis. Burnout, illness and disease are inevitable.
The impact of stress overload is great. Some of the physical and emotional issues include:
High blood pressure
Increased risk of heart attack
Auto immune diseases
Increased risk of stroke
Frequent illnesses and colds
Inability to relax
Suppressed immune system
Skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis)
Increased risk of cancer
Irritability or short temper
Anxiety and panic attacks
Did you know that the chemicals and hormones your body produces are responsible for how you feel?
Like everyone else, you have an internal environment – which is what is happening inside of your body all day every day. That internal environment is a mixture of chemicals and hormones your body automatically releases depending upon your thoughts. When you have positive thoughts they generate feelings like joy, gratitude, happiness, love, enjoyment, enthusiasm, etc. The chemicals and hormones your body produces initiate the growth and relaxation response and you feel good emotionally and physically. However, when you think thoughts that are negative they generate feelings like anxiety, frustration, irritation, annoyance, fear, anger, guilt, overwhelm, etc., the chemicals and hormones your body produces ignite the fight or flight stress response and the result is you don’t feel good emotionally or physically.
Every thought we have causes our bodies to release chemicals and hormones. Studies have shown that 90% of our thoughts are subconscious and 70% of those are negative. So just imagine how many negative thoughts you are thinking that you don’t even know about, and that are putting your body into the stress response mode!
If you don’t know about the thoughts, how can you handle the stress caused by them? You can tell if you are generating positive or negative thoughts based on how you feel. Your emotions are the key to knowing the state of your internal environment. Paying attention to your emotions rather than suppressing them, ignoring them, or trying to make them go away is the key, and the first step towards creating lasting stress relief.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
~ William James, Author
This simple yet profoundly powerful method is a tool that effectively targets the underlying causes of stress. EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques, sometimes called meridian tapping, is a self-administered technique scientifically proven to calm the amygdala or the fear center of the brain, reduce the stress hormone levels in the blood stream and activate the Growth and Relaxation response, thus we feel good. It combines ancient acupuncture with modern psychology to remove energy blocks. Like acupuncture, EFT uses the energy pathways in our bodies called meridians. Instead of using needles, EFT uses gentle tapping with the fingertips on the meridian points while thinking about a specific problem or stressful issue. By stimulating these acupressure points and focusing on the thought or emotion that is causing the stress, a message is sent to the brain that it is safe to relax, thus clearing the energy block.
Using EFT we can gently and effectively access the underlying causes of stress, thus enabling us to let go of negative thoughts, as well as uncover then neutralize limiting beliefs and troubling memories.
EFT often works where nothing else will because it releases the energy trapped by unresolved emotional issues. EFT works on the idea that wherever improvement is needed in one’s life, there are unresolved emotional issues in the way, resulting in stress. The more these issues can be cleared, the more peace and emotional freedom one will experience. Some of the issues where EFT has been found to be effective include: