For this final week before Christmas, we have reached our final pillar of health in Dr. Colbert’s book, The Seven Pillars of Health, The Natural Way To Better Health For Life.
Coping With Stress
Dr. Colbert starts this section by letting us know that some stresses can be good. Like getting a promotion or having a wedding. And, the body’s natural response that occurs when we are threatened is actually a gift. Our bodies are designed to handle these threats efficiently because we are designed by a very wise Creator that put factors into play that help us when a threat occurs. Our bodies are designed for “a sudden release of adrenaline and other hormones that cause your blood pressure to go up, your heart to beat faster, and your lungs to take in more air…. These stress hormones give you extra strength and mental acuity for a few moments, and they empower you to either fight or flee.” (p.229)
“But when the stress response occurs too frequently or goes on long term, those stress hormones that were meant to save your life begin to actually harm you. They can leave you feeling depressed, anxious, angry, with low sex drive, and predisposed to obesity type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and all kinds of illnesses. The same hormones that save your life in an emergency can actually begin to destroy your health.” (p. 229)
“In a ten-year study, people who were not able to manage their stress effectively had a 40 percent higher death rate than those who were ‘unstressed’.” (p.230)
“In response to long-term stress, the hormone cortisol rises, which can cause the blood pressure to rise, can cause the release of fats and sugar in the bloodstream, and may cause weight gain, elevated triglycerides, high cholesterol, and blood sugar.” (p.230)
“Stress comes in two categories:
- Things we can and should control
- Things we cannot control” (p. 231)
One of the first approaches to daily stresses is to practice mindfulness. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV). “Jesus taught us to be mindful of the present, not of the future. The apostle Paul likewise taught us to forget ‘those thing which are behind,’ meaning the past. Mindfulness means letting go of any thought that is unrelated to the present moment and finding something to enjoy in the present moment.” (p.234)
Dr. Colbert’s next recommendation is to practice “Reframing”. He uses the following Bible verses to emphasize the importance of replacing “irrational beliefs and perceptions with rational, realistic statements.” (p.239)
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:5
“… be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3, NKJV
“Scriptural reframing is one of the most powerful ways to relieve stress. It is simply replacing our fears, worries, failures, grief, sorrows, and shame with God’s promises.” (p.240)
There is so much more in this final section of the book to help us deal with stress, but I want to leave you with something I found extremely interesting.
“The heart…, has an extensive communication system with the brain and exerts…influence on your emotions and body.” (p. 241) The heart functions as a hormonal gland, sensory organ, and an information-encoding and processing center. “With every beat, the heart transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure, and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body that play a major part in determining your emotions or how you feel.” (p.241)
“When you experience stress and negative emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety, your heart rate variability pattern becomes more erratic and disordered, and it sends chaotic signals to the brain….The result is excessive stress with toxic emotions, energy drain, and added wear and tear on your mind and body.” (p. 241)
Dr. Colbert tells the story of a seventeenth-century clock maker who invented the pendulum clock—Christian Huygens. One night, he noticed that all his pendulum clocks were swinging in unison. He had not set them that way. He reset all the clocks out of sync with each other. After a short period of time they were once more swinging in unison. “Years later it was discovered that the largest clock with the strongest rhythm was able to pull all other nearby pendulums in sync with itself. This was called entrainment.” (pp. 241-242)
“The heart has a magnetic field that is approximately five thousand times stronger than the brain…” (241) That is why God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 —
“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.” (NKJV)
“According to the Institute of HearthMath, (the) core heart feelings of gratitude, joy, peace, and love increase synchronization and coherence in the heart rhythm patterns, and these in turn decrease stress.” (p. 242) But of course it is hard to have these positive emotions when you are angry, anxious, or stressed by people and situations.
Dr. Colbert suggests you use your experiences as teachers, to learn how to avoid future mistakes the next time around. (p. 243)
Last tips for stress reduction:
- Bible reading
- Breathing (as in slow and deep—like Lamaze)
- Remove obvious stressors
- Saying NO!
- Surround yourself with positive friends (pp. 255-259)
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3
What is your favorite tool for reducing stress in your life?