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Struggling to cope better emotionally: Have you been genetically altered by constant stress?
"I'm tired of feeling so stressed out..."
"I can't eat properly, sleep well or concentrate on anything.... It's like my body is literally breaking down."
Often it can feel like nothing you do to cope with stress works.
Is this because it is impossible to stop everything from overwhelming you?
Or could it be because you are missing out on some vital truth that could equip you with the practical knowledge to cope better?
In the last two decades, a wave of research studies have revealed how the overload of stress hormones lead to ongoing genetic changes that can make you vulnerable to physical and mental health difficulties throughout your lifetime.
According to recent research studies, the stress hormone called cortisol has the ability to cross the cell to gene barrier and cause changes to the structure of many types of genes in the brain. These changes can have a negative impact on the the parts of the brain that help to regulate our emotions and our ability to cope
(This is a link to a study explaining the interaction between our genes and our environment, such as stressful or adverse events in our lives. Moreover, some of those who develop anxiety or depression may respond better to treatment while others struggle to benefit. )
( Here is another link to another study highlighting how the Interactions between genetic and environmental factors alters our genes, resulting in ineffective functioning that lead to anxiety and depression www.jneurosci.org)
That brings me to this vital truth.
Focus your efforts on adopting specific lifestyle changes that consistently keeps your stress levels between low to moderately high levels and you will find that your mental health problems will also reduce.
Doing this will in turn impact your genes in a way that they will start to support you to feel emotionally better within yourself without even trying.
Notice that I did not say you have to keep your stress levels fully down at all times. Trying to keep your stress levels constantly down creates a different emotional trap which I will elaborate on in a moment.
But first, how do you practically keep your stress between low to moderately high levels, and do this consistently?
Here are 7 little-know practical lifestyle changes you can adopt right now to turn the negative impact of stress on your body around.
Shall I explain?
Jane (Not her real name) was referred to me for therapy for depression and anxiety problems that had been ongoing the previous 3 years.
She described her most disturbing symptom as always feeling foggy, heave and confused in her head. In addition she regularly struggled with lethargy, and an inability to motivate herself especially in the mornings.
From my assessment, I highlighted that a big part of Jane's problem was that she was stuck in a lifestyle that perpetuated over-thinking (Worrying about her future or regretting her past issues). to help her break out of this rut, proceeded to teach her how to implement the 7 lifestyle changes I listed above .
Three weeks after Jane complained saying...
"I come to you with some real issues but the strategies you are giving me seem totally irrelevant. How are they going to help me out of my real problems. I really don't have time to practice these strategies."
Fortunately I was able to encourage Jane to treat the strategies as an experiment which she could stop doing after 3 more weeks if they don't help
She was surprised to feel more motivated with very little effort.
She didn't feel as low or as anxious as she did before.
She also noticed she was no longer tensed up. Her head was clearer and she could now focus on films from the beginning to the end and actually enjoy them.
And all it took to achieve this level of progress was a strategic lifestyle change.
You see, like Jane, you may have spent years focusing on your diagnosed problem (e.g. depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorder etc.) and as a result failed to see that the diagnosis is just a name given to identify a combination of complex neurological and biological and behavioral changes within your mind and body.
As such, you may have fallen into the trap of trying to think, talk, criticize. force or medicate yourself out of the diagnosed problem,.. And like many people, you're now feeling hopelessly defeated.
The good news is that it does not have to be this way Here is a quick summary of the 7 system strategy I shared with Jane. Take your time to incorporate it into your life so that you can experience a similar achievement like Jane did.
In an attempt to cope, have you focused all your energy on just cutting the bad things out of your life?
The things that actually sabotage your ability to cope emotionally tends to be the good things in your life.
Pat is convinced that her emotionally manipulative husband Steve is the problem in their marriage...
But the problem, Pat has no Idea that her natural tendency to always let things go easily ( Which she has always seen as a good thing) has trained Steve to default to taking advantage of her.
Like in Pat's case, unless you make changes to your reliance of these "good behaviors" or the good things in your life, you'll always get bombarded by mental health problems.
Our perception of the future is a key part of how motivated we feel.
If you factually knew that your future was hopelessly negative and dark with no prospect of happiness, you will have no reason to wake up each day.
In reality though, there's as much a chance for things to go good in the future as it is for things to go bad.
When people who are not struggling with emotional health problems think about the future, they tend to focus on the good. They imagine themselves as successful and happy with their lives. They do this even though they have no proof that this is how their life will turn out.
And then this creates positive side effect of producing more opportunities for positive cycles and positive experiences
Your emotional (limbic) brain is hardwired to protect you from danger. And it will strive to protect you even if this means it has to stop you from growing and making progress in life.
And the only way to prevent this from happening is to train yourself to remain in a logical frame of mind, even when in highly emotional situations.
Your attitude towards the stress related emotions you struggle with, has a high influence on your ability to remain resilient.
It's now been scientifically proven that your system will temporarily stop producing two body healing hormones whenever you start to relate to stress as your enemy.
These two hormones are DHEA and Oxytocin. ( Kelly McDonald in her wonderful book, " The Upside Of Stress" sited a number of research studies that reveal how these two hormones are often impeded by merely thinking that stress is dangerous.)
So do your best to try to stop feeling anxious about your anxiety... stop feeling depressed about your depression and stop feeling angry and about your anger difficulties.
Ever wondered why it is so much easier to offer advice and solutions to other people than it is to help yourself?
This is because you are more wrapped up in your own problems than you are with the other people's problems and this interferes with your objectivity.
Mastering the observer’s perspective helps you improve your ability to remain objective with yourself. And this allows you to apply the same wisdom you use for other for yourself too.
Neuroplasticity is your brains process of learning habits.
Whenever you repeat any behavior over and over, the repetition forms pathways in your brain turning that behavior into habits.
So make a list of healthy behaviors you would like habituate and turn on this super power.
Hand on heart, how much time do you spend, "one on one," with yourself?
Do you ever take time out to review things you are doing to keep emotionally well? Or do
you just keep on going with an expectation that things will slot in to place eventually?
Have you gotten so caught up in living your life for others. Only existing for your friends, your boss, your kids, your
partner or everyone else?
Always catering to your wellbeing last.
Well, It is time to grow a selfish bone and spend more time working on yourself. Because, without doing this, your mind and body will develop in a way that promotes more and more mental health problems.
As you have hopefully seen, constant stress overload results in ongoing genetic changes that can switch essential parts of your genes off.
The truth however is that stress hormones are still crucial to help you defend yourself from danger. Stress is essential to keep you alive, active, and full of drive.
But at the same time, poor management of stress will still butcher your life and destroy your progress at so many levels.
So the goal is not to treat stress as your enemy... But to treat stress as a friend who can love, support and protect you. But to then remember that this friend (stress) can also get angry and break you if you violate the rules of your relationship with him.
And this is why I shared the 7 lifestyle strategies that will help you keep stress as an ally as you battle through the uncontrollable pressures of life.
This way you can take charge and start to repair the damage stress has done to your genes so that your body can become more resilient to support you towards living the life of your dreams...
Your stress is changing you, It's time you learned to master it.
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