Stress and Mental Health
I Hope your Christmas/Holiday season was good and that you had some time to recharge. December can be so busy with family obligations, parties and other social commitments.
Speaking of recharging, in case you noticed, this month’s newsletter is a bit later than usual because I took some time to recharge after the New Year and went on a nice vacation.
In this newsletter I wanted to talk about stress and emotional wellness and how it can impact your life and your health and why you should take make time to recharge regularly. If you are dealing with cancer at this time, even if you’re in remission, or have some other chronic disease this is not an option. It is imperative to your recovery and avoiding a recurrence. If you aren’t dealing with an illness at this time but have nagging “minor” health concerns then this is important to you to avoid a bigger illness. Minor complaints/symptoms often lead to more critical illness if ignored or not dealt with properly.
Your body and mind are two sides of the same coin. They get sick together and they heal together. Things that affect one will affect the other; they are connected. When you have a chronic illness such as cancer you must heal the body and the mind simultaneously so that any psychological problem does not sabotage your therapeutic process.
There has been scientific proof, for some time now, that our mood, emotions and outlook on life have a direct impact on how our immune system functions. To summarize, the limbic system of the brain and the central nervous system release certain hormones and that secretion decides if the immune system is boosted or weakened, turned on or off; and that quality, subsequently, depends on our emotions, beliefs and predominant psychological alignment.
A cancer diagnosis is a major trauma in a person’s life and causes much stress. It brings out many intense emotions such as panic, fear, rage, or, at the other end of end of the scope, resignation, denial and despair. Many patients experience a feeling of isolation, of being out of touch with normal life and may feel deprived of a future.
According to research done by Lawrence LeShan, pioneer researcher in the body-mind link in malignant disease, certain personality traits seem to be more pre-disposed to cancer. These include those with low self-esteem, individuals who have difficulty expressing anger or aggression, and those who have a tendency to please others and ignore their own needs and feelings.
It is also a well-known fact that cancer often appears 18 months to two years after some stressful or traumatic life incident. This could be anything from extreme grief, divorce, a career crisis, financial issues etc.
Several studies suggest that fighters, unlike despairing patients, send positive non-verbal messages to their bodies which boost their immune system and get results accordingly. Not always.
This article will focus on how to think positively and be the “fighter” and ways you can accomplish that.
Social Mechanisms and Applications
Develop a Healthy Self-Image
Our beliefs define our lives. Our beliefs attract conditions, situations, or people to our lives that fulfill our beliefs about ourselves and about life. You need to stop and ask yourself if what you believe about who you are and why you’re alive are healthy beliefs or not; if they aren’t its time to change them.
Often, problems with our self-image come from mistaken beliefs about ourselves that devalue us. These beliefs may have been learned in our early years, often from our parents. You can become passive or submissive, putting the needs of others before your own and believing that what you want doesn’t count. If you pass up opportunities to be assertive you can be left with feelings of anger, resentment, defeat or depression because your needs are not being met and your feelings not being expressed.
Being assertive can make you feel empowered, improve your self-esteem, give you more energy to live in the moment; less likely to store negative emotions in body tissues.
Suppressed anger is another emotional influence in our physical well-being. If you don’t express your anger and store it in your body it can affect a particular area or cause muscle tension. This can cause fatigue, lack of enthusiasm, apathy; we become stuck. When we don’t express our anger it will find other ways to be released either by irritability, or unjustified explosiveness. Some individuals may even become self-destructive and develop addictions, destructive behaviour patterns or perhaps suicidal tendencies.
Live with Joy and Purpose
Our sense of joy and having a purpose in life are dependent on our emotional and spiritual well-being, our attitudes, development of our potential, relationships, who we are, and what we do in life.
Destiny is the path our life takes when we relate to our soul and listen to our intuitive calling. Fate is what happens when the soul is in the back seat and we let other people, society or “should” guide our lives. Disease sometimes manifests when we do the latter. There may be some part of ourselves that we aren’t listening to or honoring, an unlived or unfulfilled life.
Find Your Happy Place
Ask yourself if you are happy. It’s such an important question because happiness has a huge impact on your health. It can affect your arteries to your heart, the glow of your skin or the pep in your step. Feelings of happiness influence your brain and body chemistry that make you better able to cope with pain, stress, fight off colds, flu, heart disease and even cancer. Here are some steps to make yourself happier and feel younger.
1. Believe in Yourself
Take a good look at yourself; identify any irrational beliefs about your self-worth and adjust them. Be at ease with yourself and open your door to others and friendship will grow naturally.
2. Hang out with Happy Friends
Having someone in your immediate circle who is upbeat increases your changes of happiness by 15. Why? Because happy people have the power to spread their feel-good vibes everywhere like a ripple spreads through water.
3. Make Time for Play
Trade your endless list for some spontaneous leisure time. This can have big benefits for your health, mood, mind, job and even relationships. Take a mini vacation from deadlines, bills and your busy schedule. Anything counts from a silly moment with your spouse to hosting an unplanned get-together or cooking up a guilt free recipe.
4. Squash Negativity
Sometimes the noise in our heads is our biggest stressor. When negative thoughts crop up “Stop” and turn things around. Trade in put-down for positive thoughts and affirmations. Empower yourself to think positive.
5. Connect with others
Make every effort to really talk to people you care about. Stay in touch through emails, phone calls video chat and when you can visits. Get physical too; hugs stimulate oxytocin and give you a feel good boost. Likewise, so does lovemaking in steady relationships (couples report the highest happiness levels).
6. Meditate or Pray
No matter what you call it or how you do it, meditation and prayer can help slow breathing and brain activity and reduce heart rate and blood pressure. As an added bonus when you do pray or meditate you’re more likely to be filled with peace, joy and other positive emotions that can lead to positive physiological responses through-out the body.
Fighting cancer is no easy task and that’s why I encourage you to adopt some of these behaviors. I also encourage you to adopt a lasting meditation practice that you can lean on when things get tough. Meditation is a simple and potent self-care practice that doesn’t need more than a quiet space and a few minutes of your time. Here’s one that I really like and recommend for anyone starting out. Eli Bay; Relaxation that Works.
References Sources: Gerson Therapy Handbook
Professional Cancer Coaches Manual