According to Xandria Williams in her new book Vital Signs for Cancer Prevention, bad stressful states have the potential to predispose you to cancer. So if you’re living a fast-paced life, often feel overwhelmed or hopeless, read on for tips on how to deal with your stress so that you’re not putting your health in danger.
Bad stress increases your requirement for certain nutrients, reduces the oxygen supply to your tissues, can trigger the change from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism (explained in Chapter 16), and increases the possible production of harmful l-lactic acid (also in Chapter 16).
Bad stressful states can alter the flow of your digestive juices and the production of digestive enzymes, thus interfering with digestion and leading to the possible development of pathogens in your digestive tract. Worries and concerns can change your brain chemistry, which in turn can change the messages that are sent to the cells of your immune system and hormone glands. We know that when you smile, your white blood cells become more active and go to work attacking foreign invaders. When you are sad and frown, however, their activity decreasesâ€”so smile! It not only makes you feel good, regardless of what is going on in your life at the moment, but it also helps you to stay healthy.
Heavy-duty bad stress (emotional) and overload (stress caused by physical exhaustion and burnout) frequently lead to a lack of care, lack of time for a good diet, and failure to take supplements or exercise or to make time for rest and emotional warmth and joy. This further increases your risk of developing a variety of health problems, including cancer.
The worst type of stress is the helpless and hopeless variety, when you feel trapped in a situation for which you can see no positive outcome; for example, the mother of toddler-aged children may be desperate to get out of her marriage but feels she could not possibly cope with the children on her own; a man may be working for a boss he dislikes, who is manipulative or unethical, but he cannot leave because his family depends on his income or on the reference he would need (but would not get) if he resigned. These situations can eat away at you, making you feel helpless and hopeless and stuck in a situation you feel you cannot change.
Dealing with, and diffusing bad stress is the key to staying healthy, and people approach this by meditating, making life changes (in job, lifestyle, diet), or trying proven mindfulness techniques like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Autogenic Training. There are also several simple exercises that Williams recommends to her patients. Try them out and let us know how you feel.
1. List everything you would like to do in your life but arenâ€™t doing at all or are not doing for enough of the time.
2. List everything in your life that makes your heart sing. What percentage of your life is filled by these things?
3. List all the things you do that are tedious, boring, deadening, or uninteresting. What percentage of your life is filled by these things?
4. You have ten minutes to describe the life you would consider to be perfect. No restrictions. You can include things you already have or are doing, as well as things you would like to have or to be doing.
5. Imagine you could start your life over again. Go back to the start of your life. What things would you do differently?
Now go back to the first two lists, and for each item you would like to be doing, ask yourself the following:
â€˘ What have I done to be able to do this?
â€˘ What else could I do to make this possible?
â€˘ What would happen if I did make these changes?
â€˘ What stops me?
â€˘ What will happen if I donâ€™t make these changes?
â€˘ What am I now willing to do to change?
â€˘ What do these answers say about me?
Now work on the third list, the boring list, and ask yourself the following:
â€˘ Why do I keep doing what I donâ€™t enjoy?
â€˘ Are these activities really essential?
â€˘ If they are, how could I make them more enjoyable?
â€˘ How could I change my attitude toward them?
â€˘ If they are not essential, what can I do to change them?
â€˘ What have I done to make any of these changes?
â€˘ What could I do to make any of these changes?
â€˘ What do these answers say about me?
Now, number four. Beside each item, on a scale of one to ten, mark how much of each goal or desire you already have in your life. Look at the figure as a percentage of the total. Is that enough? You may be in for some surprises. You may find that you actually do have almost everything you want, but that there are one or two things you would like to changeâ€”so change them. Will that upset someone else? Possibly. But it is your life that is at stake. If something is really important to you, try to figure out a way of achieving it with minimum stress to anyone else who is involved. Remember, though: if you are facing cancer, or a possible recurrence, this is no time to be putting other people firstâ€”you have probably been doing this for much of your life. This is the time to get your own life into better shape. You may even be surprised at how many positive spin-offs there are for other people when you do this.
Featured image by Bablekan at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons