Why stress is damaging your health
Stress can be life-threatening, when we’re stressed, our brain releases toxic hormones that damage our higher brain functions (the prefrontal cortex, where we derive our human intelligence) and consequently hamper our mental performance.
Your stress hormones prevents your brain from making the new connections that are necessary for learning and creativity and shrink your brain’s neural networks.
Why stress exists
From an evolutionary perspective, stress is merely an expression of fear, that historically kept us alert and prevented us from being gobbled up by our predators.
But today’s world is much safer, and most of our fears aren’t even real. Around 97 percent of our worries are either exaggerated or complete fabrications.
Some measures suggested by the author
Rewire your brain by changing your attitude and letting fear go; the right attitude adjustment will literally rewire your brain. The method is ditching the thoughts that provoke stress:
- Rather than thinking of the traffic jam as eating into your time, you could instead think about it as extra time – an opportunity to think about the things in your life you didn’t have time to think about before;
- Embrace the fact that there are things in life that you can’t completely control;
- Try waking up about ten minutes early and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Think about the things that you’re grateful for, like the people you love or the opportunities you have;
- Take a thirty-second “time-out” a few times throughout your day;
- Disengage from whatever you’re doing or from whatever is occupying your thoughts, and allow yourself to relax. Clear your mind, letting go of all your thoughts just for a moment. Take a slow and easy breath and relish in the feeling of peace that washes over you;
- Make sure not to focus too much on a single thing, and instead allow your mind to wander. Doing so facilitates creativity and problem solving;
- Hawaiianize your mind when faced with stressful situations. Think back on a memory that brings you contentment and peace: maybe your honeymoon or the smell of grandma’s freshly baked cookies. Feel how the memory calms you, and relish the experience. Now that you feel calm, you’re better equipped to fully utilize your brain’s higher functions and increase your performance. Note: A peaceful mindset isn’t something that happens overnight. You’ll have to practice.
Other interesting facts
Meyer Friedman – working with highly stressed people who are at greater risk of developing heart disease – told his patients that they should, for example, intentionally take the longest line at the supermarket as a means of practicing inner peace.
About the book:
The End of Stress (2014) offers a unique look into the severe damage caused by stress on both your health and happiness, and offers simple tips and tricks that you can start using today to undo the damage.
Don Joseph Goewey formerly managed the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford Medical School as well as a pioneering research institute focusing on methods to cope with catastrophic life events.