Wu Tao founder Michelle Locke is just about to finish up her degree in nursing and found the time to write this excellent newsletter a few weeks ago that illuminates the link between stress and poor health. Michelle is a trove of information when it comes to health and wellbeing - she is certified in Shiatsu and deeply knowledgeable about Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as now about to become a nurse! Read on and enjoy!
I have come across so many people with a heap of chronic conditions that are becoming the epidemics of the 21st century. It’s really made me question my role in health care. I am becoming increasingly passionate about improving health and wellness through preventative measures. Every day I meet people who have one or more of these conditions:
- Heart disease
You know what they all have in common? They all have a link to STRESS. Yep, stress plays a key role in the development of all these diseases. Stress along with poor nutrition and environmental factors are the secondary risk factors in all these conditions. Secondaryrisk factors means they can be changed. Primary risk factors are ones that are less able to be changed such as a genetic component or family history but research in the area of epigenetics is showing that even genetics can be changed.
So many things cause stress. Stress can be positive if it is short term. Long term stress depletes the adrenals and wreaks havoc on hormones such insulin, cortisol and sex hormones. The chronic stimulation of the fear or flight response causes a cascade of responses that can result in blood vessel constriction, metabolic changes that conserve energy through fat retention and cell mutations.
If we want to reduce our risk of negative impact stress, we need to look at what induces it and go in the opposite direction! Here are some of the issues I have come across that contribute to chronic stress.
Unhealthy relationships are those that on a long term basis do not add to your feeling of happiness, fulfillment, sense of connection or belonging or healthy self image. All relationships fluctuate and there are times when conflicts or difficulties arise that are confronting, but this does not indicate an unhealthy relationship. On the contrary, a healthy relationship contains opportunities for growth through challenge, plus many opportunities for shared enjoyment! Chronic relationship difficulties create stress and unhappiness, there’s no doubt about that.
‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. There’s a bit of truth in that! Even if work is your absolute passion, a 24/7 workaholic person is not going to fare well in the relationship department or the physical health area. Our bodies and hearts need ‘down time’ to reflect, reboot, connect and rejuvenate. Downtime is yin time. It’s soul time as opposed to our projected exterior ‘doing’ self. We all need a balance between doing what we are called to do in the world and nourishing our hearts. We nourish ourselves in many ways not the least of which includes building deep relationships with others, connecting with nature, exercise and engaging in enjoyable activities that lifts our spirit. Lack of work/life balance can result in stress symptoms such as burnout, insomnia, high blood pressure, overweight, stimulant addiction and chronic disease.
Diet and Exercise deficiencies
I think it’s obvious that poor diet and lack of exercise contribute to stress, however, I am constantly amazed by the amount of people that present to hospital with little or no understanding of these two core fundamentals of health or at least little motivation to change unhealthy living habits! Our greatest negative influence in our current advanced culture is choice underpinned by marketing. It’s not hard to eat a nutritious and healthy diet, but our health systems are overwhelmed by chronic diseases with dietary imbalance and overweight as important causal factors. Our supermarkets are filled with food products that are loaded with sugar, preservatives, saturated fats and numbers. So many numbers! Yet, it’s the easiest thing in the world for us to purchase unprocessed nutritionally rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, fats and proteins.
Exercise is a similar story. We have options galore for engaging in exercise that is enjoyable and engaging, yet many people spend most of their day sitting in a chair. I’m not a fan of sport or going to the gym which is one of the main reasons I created Wu Tao! I wanted an exercise that I enjoyed doing and dance is my number one. Dance is my ideal exercise. It’s creative, expressive, fun and it’s done to music. Perfect! However, a walk or run or whatever exercise floats your boat three times a week, is all that’s needed to maintain a strong, healthy, flexible body. Lack of exercise contributes to stress by weakening the body through lack of movement. From a Chinese medicine perspective, exercise stimulates energy flow while lack of it results in stagnant, blocked energy which contributes to disease. Which would we rather have?
I am on a mission to create more opportunities for people to reduce stress through holistic programs that engender health and wellness in all areas. I will be offering more retreats, workshops and trainings in the near future and I look forward to sharing these with you very soon!