Opposing Forces

David Masters

Stress and peace are quintessential opposing spiritual components of life: The Yin to the Yang. 

Living the gift of the present means learning to find your center, being objective, and having the strength to carry through no matter how painful or challenging the moment is. Being present means no outcome-based thinking, not letting anything that you want, any person or pressure determine what your principles will be, or where your moral compass will point.

The word stress in the human sense is almost always associated with loss and suffering, taken to mean that we are at some level victims of countless thousands of situations, circumstances, experiences, conditions and various mental/physical and emotional states that seemingly terrorize and punish us for no apparent reason.

But look below the surface of the way we react and you will discover the personal components of ego, blame and judgment.  These mental/spiritual weakness’s are the core of why stress has such an impact. In other words, we have personalized our conflict with virtually all forms of stress.

We have all given “stress” power, strength and we have virtualized a relationship with stress and endowed it with mystical powers that drains us of precious life and thwart our dreams and desires for happiness. But, stress in and of itself isn’t really the monster we believe it to be.

Stress once comprehended to be a challenge for personal growth, is really an event horizon – a mysterious path that can lead us out of bondage and misery and into paradise on earth… once you choose to stop blaming, and begin owning your responses to life’s challenges, many of which are based in trauma, anger and fear.

Stress is now widely accepted by the medical establishment as being a deadly force affecting all aspects of the human condition.  The BrainStress begins in the brain, with a surge of hormones causing intense alertness. In this hyped state, we cannot relax or sleep.

But our minds cannot function at this extreme level for prolonged periods. Eventually the hormone surges and exhaustion cause tension headaches, irritability, aggression, inability to concentrate and memory loss. Unchecked stress can also trigger depression, which strikes twice as many women as men. Stress suppresses the hypothalamus, the emotion control center in our brains, curbing the production of the hormones that energize us and make us feel well.  

The Ears – The surging hormones induced by stress improve our hearing to help us react to danger. But better hearing can actually be bad for the body: A Cornell University study concluded that even moderate noise elevates heart damaging stress hormones.

Studies have also shown that a lot of small noisy stressors added together — honking horns, ringing telephones and loud co-workers — can be more dangerous to the body than one major stressful event.

The Lungs –One of the first things we do when we feel stressed is hyperventilate. It is part of the body’s fight-or-flight response — in case we are in danger and need the extra oxygen in our bloodstream to run for cover. Those quick breaths can cause dizziness and sharp pains in the diaphragm. Severe stress can aggravate asthma and other dangerous respiratory conditions.

The Eyes – The adrenaline rush from stress dilates the eyes, improving vision. But it also triggers eye ticks because eye muscles become fatigued. Eyes may bulge if stress over-stimulates the thyroid gland.

The Mouth – Dry mouth, bad breath and difficulty swallowing occur when stress makes us take short, shallow breaths. Under constant stress, some people clench their jaws or grind their teeth.

The Hair – Considered a barometer of inner health, hair is often the first to suffer. A body under stress burns nutrients like the vitamin selenium, and that can lead to dull hair and premature graying. Chronic stress can trigger the autoimmune system to attack hair follicles, causing hair to fall out completely or in clumps. 

The Heart – A heart under stress pumps fast and hard. Blood pressure rises as the body produces the hormone epinephrine as well as the hormone cortisol. That can lead to heart palpitations and chest pains. In those with heart disease, stress can prevent blood from clotting properly and stimulate the formation of plaque that plugs arteries.

Researchers say that even thinking about something stressful raises blood pressure. A Swedish study concluded that stressful romantic relationships were more damaging to a person’s heart than work-related stress. Those in troubled marriages were three times more likely to be hospitalized for heart problems.

Immune System -Did you ever get sick after a stressful event? Extreme and constant stress lowers our white blood cell count, making us more susceptible to disease and hampering our body’s ability to heal itself.

One study showed that the pneumonia vaccine was less effective in people under constant stress. Meanwhile, researchers are studying the link between stress and autoimmune disorders like Graves disease, in which antibodies attack the thyroid, eye muscles and skin.

Before you come over into the NOW present, you will never stop needing something, anything to blame for your own lack of ability to recognize that you are affected by stress (problems beyond our control) because you lack presence.

A horrific example: In September of 2008 data from a public health registry that tracks the health effects of 9/11 suggest that as many as 70,000 people in New York alone may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the terrorist attacks.