Stress is a rampant word that appears in our daily life. A deep attraction for this concept exists within me to understand how we can masterfully deal with it on a sustainable and prolonged bedrock. I feel that it was placed systemically into our beings but we succumb to it subconsciously and willingly. But why? Is it the cortisol within us creating an inherent addiction that makes us feel that we can’t live without the stress, or chemically speaking, without the cortisol flowing abundantly in our bloodstreams?
As we all know cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that are situated right above the kidneys. Too much or too little of this hormone can produce health problems of its own sort. Its main functions are to assist the body’s response to stress or danger, cortisol also helps in increasing the metabolism of glucose, it controls blood pressure and it also functions in reducing inflammation while increasing the body’s immunity. Like everything in life we need a balance. Too little of this hormone will result in a disease known as the Addison’s disease, while too much of it can lead to Chronic Stress and life-threatening diseases. It is a simple connection, too much of cortisol in our bloodstream wreaks havoc in our immunity, primarily causing a spike in inflammation, hence making you an open target to a myriad of other deadly illnesses. We do not have to stretch our minds too far, just think of cancer. A disease that stems from inflammation.
Cortisol is one of those hormones that have a mind-gut connection. Stress is an emotional or psychological strain that can come from any source in our environment. But high levels of stress eventually shows itself in our physical body. How ironic, that something intangible has such a profound impact on our tangible. Elevated levels of cortisol inhibits digestion, which in the course of it reduces the levels of good bacterias in the gut. The idea that the gut is where our emotions rest was first introduced by physician and alchemist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580- 1644) in the 17th century. He strongly supported the idea that processes of emotion, perception and imagination took place not in the heart nor the mind but rather in the organs of digestion. Something I will discuss further for a later time. Thus, for our emotional and perceptive faculties to be in a good state we need to ensure that our mind will manage stress masterfully.
Introspectively thinking, if such a hormone was placed in our body with a purpose to fight stress or any other threat in order for the body to remain in its optimum health, this only goes to show that we were made to face stress, not in excess nor in scarcity. We will never be able to eliminate it, rather its an eternal dance of managing it just as long as we are here on the surface of earth.
How lucky are we when we come to think of it that we are gifted with an in-built defence system. Yet, we take our lives for granted and in the process we forget to defend our body. If such care for our body was given to us on a silver platter and we are born with protectors within us inherently— I believe we should in response vehemently protect our mind and body with all we have on a daily basis. We should take meticulous precaution in managing stress that can come through the nanosecond of our lives to the grand scale of our affairs. If we are able to do this, I strongly believe that longevity will be our trusted ally.
What does it mean to “manage”? Allow me to throw some words into the air, and you will latch on to whichever that works best for you. To manage can mean to “manoeuvre, handle, address, control, manipulate, steer and to take control”. All of these words come under the same umbrella of dealing with something skillfully or efficiently. Now, it's up to you on how to decide to take control of needless strain in your life. Make it a goal to never allow it to reach elevated heights within your bloodstream. Eliminate the idea of eliminating stress. Embrace it, don’t fear it, you have what it takes within you to manoeuvre yourself around it.
Be dedicated to finding ways in managing stress that suit you personally. No one can or should decide this for you. You know your body well enough to know exactly what works and what does not. Find that total commitment to make sure that you balance the cortisol that flows within you. Stress was, is and will be part of the design of life here on earth, but let's be wise to keep it balanced so that we can raise a toast to long life!