We usually think of stress as being all bad. We associate it with making us feel up-tight, uneasy, nervous, distracted, distraught, possibly sick, but generally miserable. Yet, stress is neither good nor bad. Stress is a fact of life. How you respond to stress is a fact of health.
So, just what is stress? Stress is more than feeling frustrated, anxious or pressed for time. Stress is anything that causes your body to change the way it is functioning right now!
Although we tend to think of stress as purely emotional, life is a never-ending series of three different types of stress: physical stress, emotional stress and nutritional stress. Your body is designed to survive all three kinds of stress. And your body is not only resilient; it’s tenacious. It can survive a lot of stress, but you may not be happy with how you feel during the survival process.
Physical stress comes from an actual threat of injury to your body. It comes as a package deal along with physical activity and physical accidents. Given the opportunity, your body will repair accident-damaged tissue and bone in a matter of days or weeks. Similarly, given the opportunity, exercise injuries heal in a short time. Although a physical accident or trauma may leave a scar of some sort on the surface or structure of your body, physical trauma should not impose long-term stress on your body. The master plan calls for your body to take care of the immediate needs of a physical stress, then return to business as usual. No problem. Physical stress is short-term.
Emotional stress, on the other hand, comes from within. It originates in your conscious mind, your feelings, memories, beliefs, and your attitudes toward events and people in your life. Emotional stress comes from your conscious responses to events around you – events perceived with your five senses. You can suffer emotional stress along with physical stress. Being physically attacked, beaten and robbed by a club-wielding thug is short-term physical stress that can drag with it long-term emotional stress.
You also generate emotional stress by your response to a situation or event. As long as emotional stress continues, your physiology, directed by Innate, must adapt to handle it. One of these adaptations might be chronic high blood pressure. The good news is that you don’t have to respond in ways that put undue stress on your body. You may not have much choice about the situation, but you do have a choice about how you respond to the situation.
Nutritional stress is an ever-present companion of eating and drinking. Your body must react to everything that goes into it – a bite of toast or juicy steak, a vitamin pill or prescription drug, concentrated smog or cigarette smoke. It doesn’t matter. Your body must handle it. It must change the way it was functioning before the substance entered through mouth, lungs, or injection to take care of the new situation. If you ate a banana and your body didn’t switch into a let’s-take-care-of-this-new-substance mode, the banana would sit there and rot, ferment. Not a pretty picture. You would be in trouble.
Your body changes the way it is functioning when you drink a glass of water, a cup of coffee, a soft drink or an alcoholic drink. Anything! Your body MUST change its current function in order to process newly introduced food and drink. Recall our definition of stress: anything that causes your body to change the way it is functioning right now. Your body MUST respond to any substance that enters it.
Stress itself isn’t a problem. Your responses to stress can cause problems. How – and how long – you RESPOND to a particular stress is the key. Your responses are always perfect. How long they last determines how you feel mentally and physically. Responses also determine how healthy you are. Stress responses are key players in the game of health.
All of this may imply that physiological responses to stress are the root cause of physical problems. Not so! Responses are always perfect. They are dictated by Innate. You have absolutely no control over how your body will respond. But you do have a great deal of control over the stimuli that prompt the responses – mainly thoughts and actions.