What does heart disease, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood sugar, depression, obesity, colds, neck and shoulder pain, Alzheimer's disease and sleep dysfunction all have in common? They are all possibly linked to stress. Most of you are probably like me and connect these ailments to stress from your past life experience, but in the medical world, the word possible is why medicine has become so popular when it comes to treating them. The medical world cannot base its principles on “maybes”, so it uses science to research, come up with evidence, create hypotheses and test them by doing experiments. Since there are so many personal definitions and interpretations for the word stress, I understand why the medical world has so many different opinions about the topic. For the average person, medicine has become the go to remedy and it makes sense. With work, kids, bills, etc., which happen to be the stressors in many lives, finding the time to study alternative ways to approach common ailments is rare. If popping a pill can give a person instant relief from one or a few of the previously mentioned issues, I can relate to the person who goes through with that plan.
While preparing for this blog, I read through several peer-reviewed medical journals and was amazed at how many contradicting views there were about this topic. Some were proving that there was a strong link between stress and issues that lead to premature death, while others were proving that stress is always only a very small part of a much bigger medical issue when death occurs. My compassion was steadily increasing for our humanity; I have witnessed countless numbers of people die because of illnesses that were possibly connected to stress, but because they never knew how to define and eliminate their stresses, their only methods of relieving their illnesses came from taking certain medicines. What if they knew all the information on both sides of this topic so they could create a new life plan to combine with their medicine? Or, what if they had the time to only focus on eliminating stress to see how their symptoms were affected? These answers are impossible to get, so the least I can do is try my best to share a plan that has worked for me and thousands of people I have been blessed to impact along my journey. To get started, we need to dive deeper into why the word, stress, is so misunderstood in the world of medicine.
These are two of the many quotes from journals that I will list in the reference section:
The following sentence can sum up these two statements: Stress may contribute to heart disease, but it is difficult to analyze because of the “soft data”. Imagine a person going to a doctor who was taught by a standard where the second quote was its foundation and they are complaining of regular headaches, weight gain, and depression. How does that conversation go in the doctor’s office? On one hand, you can’t blame the doctor if medicine is immediately recommended because nine times out of ten, the person is not going to share the intimate details about their life. By the way, most appointments are made when a person feels that they have exhausted all of their options, so in this case the doctor gives the patient four prescriptions and after a day or two the issues are suppressed. Are there any side effects of taking the medicine? Was the cause of their symptoms eliminated or does the medicine only treat the symptoms?
The above situation is based on a philosophy known as materialism. In the Oxford dictionary the definition is as follows:
This belief looks at humans as machines that are made of parts. If it is not visible, it cannot be truly quantified based on the above philosophy. Faith, hope and prayer are words that do not align with this type of philosophy. Is this the foundation that you have built your health plan upon?
Personally, I am not against the medical world. In the above scenario, I think that the biggest area of opportunity would come from how the patient communicates with themselves. If they believe that their only chance to be “fixed” (like a machine), is to make an appointment, in many cases, their tunnel vision is already aimed at an option that involves medicine. Think about it, the doctor may not even have the comfort and/or knowledge to discuss some of the issues that are not readable by taking their blood pressure, temperature, weight, cholesterol, etc. All of these test results are due to effects that are based on the thoughts, habits and actions (T.H.A.) of the patient. Even if a doctor had the intent to help a patient examine their T.H.A., in a normal appointment, imagine how long it would take to get to the real issues. Actually, some would even say that a therapist or psychologist would be better at getting to the core of someone’s T.H.A.’s. So many people like to blame the medical world, but I think it is each adult human’s responsibility to create a life plan that regularly examines their T.H.A. 's, especially once they begin suffering from illness and/or disease.
One of the Four Pillars I will discuss that contributes to the mystery behind stress is emotional intelligence. What if a person learned to use substances to ease the pain of unwanted challenges? That was me for many years. Or what if a person is doing “so well” that their substance abuse lowers their tolerance for pain? As in when something happens out of the norm, they instantly dismiss it if it doesn’t fit into their self-created island of comfort. This used to be me as well. I remember going to a doctor’s appointment in 2008 as I was approaching the 320 pound version of myself and I was told the following.. “Kinja, I am not trying to get too personal but your weight gain is getting out of hand.” I was so shallow that I changed doctors after that check-up. This is an example of that short tolerance for pain I just mentioned. It took a few months, a President’s club in Puerto Rico and a lot of internal conflict for me to decide in February of 2009 that I had to do something drastic. Even though I was a coward when the doctor first told me how it was, I am forever grateful that they took a risk and said something. Without starting that wake-up call, I doubt that I would be alive to write about this today.
What I did in 2009 was a result of emotional alchemy. I turned unwanted stresses into opportunities for my future development. There are several types of stress, so please don’t limit that word to negative situations. Sometimes, the stress can stem from positive results and still lead to harmful consequences. It is a full-time job to make sure your awareness allows you to filter through your circumstances to avoid getting swept up into the cycle of normalcy. It takes practice and this is where the hunger to seek knowledge comes into play, so as you move forward one of your goals should be to identify all of the parts of your life that increase your stress while coming up with ways to create benefits to your life from those feelings.
Emotional Intelligence Action Plan: There will always be stress in our lives; the key to progress is learning how to recognize and address the feelings as they arise. Eventually, what used to be known as “stress”, can turn in a wave of emotions that simply flows through one’s essence. To do that, awareness is the first step and then coming up with ways to transform those feelings into positive production would be next. Some people journal their stresses, while others come up with activities to help release built up energy. There is nothing wrong with sitting in silence while observing what is going on inside as the waves of emotions run their course. Another great tool comes from reading/listening to the journeys of people from all walks of life who have transformed their stressors into stepping stones and as this becomes a habit, your understanding of emotional alchemy will continue to increase.
Kinja’s Current Reality: Since my Shaolin training camp experience in 2015, I have had a minimum of thirty five minutes per day of silent time. This is one of many tools that have helped me increase my awareness and follow the process of noticing that all feelings are not meant to be internalized. The more I learn, the more thoughts I have and without a process in place, the thoughts can turn a triumphant life journey into an anxious life roller coaster. The secret that has helped along my path is embracing the roller coaster rides as well. The fear of the old days has now become excitement, which changes the quality of the ride. The gratitude of knowing that I can continuously adapt to this gift called life keeps me excited every time I take a breath! To dive deeper into understanding the Four Pillar system, explore the 365 page manual at any time. Regardless, next week I will see you again in another episode of the Decade Series.
Fauvel, J.-P., & Ducher, M. (2007). Is hypertension the missing link between stress and coronary heart disease? AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HYPERTENSION, 20(11), 1154–1155. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1016/j.amjhyper.2007.06.009
Health plus. (2018, May 4). 10 Conditions Linked to Stress. Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/healthplus/article/health-conditions-linked-to-stress