Stress, Anxiety, and the CEO

When members of my CEO advisory panel ask “Am I the only one struggling with stress and anxiety?” I know it’s time to cover this topic yet again.

This time my guest expert is Dr. Greg Eckel, a naturopath and licensed acupuncturist with ten years’ experience treating people with moderate to severe chronic stress.

Am I Having Chronic Stress?

A lot of people are experiencing the symptoms of chronic stress, yet we have become so desensitized to these that we ignore their message

Evidence of chronic stress include:

  • Memory issues
  • Sleep
  • Short temper
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Headache

Yet we’ve become trained to see these as standalone problems, rather than as symptoms of a larger problem. And we treat these symptoms one at a time.

There’s of course a lot of advertising aimed at reinforcing this view, because there’s big money to be made managing the symptoms of a chronic condition — the big blockbuster drugs are those that people take daily for years. Yet these drugs don’t “leave the patient at a higher state of being” after taking them.

And if you have some other chronic illness that is not caused by stress, illness itself can become a source of chronic stress.

Stress and the Body

Stress keeps us alive — it provides the fight-or-flight response that keeps saber-toothed tigers from eating us. And that sort of stress is over quickly. We do need to have this happen at least occasionally as part of our normal body balance.

Unfortunately we respond to the tiger when there’s no tiger — day after day we live with such irritants as a balky computer, being stuck in traffic, destructive conflict at work or at home, etc. — and when we’re in a continual state of fight-or-flight, we get further out of balance and the negative impacts of the physical stress response add up.

Chronic stress will cause weight gain, and the extra pounds then throw off the body’s hormone balance.

Often, folks feel they cannot relax without “a few drinks” at the end of the day. While it’s okay to have one to two drinks, it’s not okay to NEED the drinks. If there is anything you need or crave in order to relax — even mint tea — then that dependency is a signal of a problem or an imbalance.

Stress causes blood to leave the gut and go to the muscles — leading to gastric upset.

Stories that Create Stress

Stress actually is a product — at least sometimes — of the stories we tell ourselves. We interpret the world as follows:

  1. Our senses get input from the world
  2. We interpret the input through our stories
  3. We react to the stories emotionally
  4. We then in response to the emotions decide how to behave

When this third step contains stressful emotions, it’s time to change the stories you are telling yourself.

Carolyn Myss in her book “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can” and Candace Pert in her book “Molecules of Emotion” both describe exactly this — how our brain processes create the chemicals that end up in our blood and affect our mood and health.

There are now two new areas of science studying the power of the mind to affect health: Psycho-Neuro-Immunology (for immune function) and Psycho-Neuro-Endocrinology (for endocrine function).

Steps and Techniques to Reduce Stress

  1. Exercise — just 20 minutes of exercise in one day will create three days worth of anti-aging, anti-stress effect in the body. Start with 20 minutes three times a week. Find a way to work it into your normal routine, such as parking a 20-minute walk away from an appointment, and allowing 25-30 minutes.
  2. Eliminate foods that create an immune or inflammation response.
  3. Look for and eliminate buildups of heavy metals in the body.
  4. Practice deep breathing exercises that are proven to lower blood pressure.
  5. Get your hormone levels tested and visit a wellness practitioner.
  6. Make the decision to change the stories you tell yourself, and pick the story that is the least stressful and most amusing or relaxing.
  7. Share your anti-stress plan with at least one other person, be it a coach, life partner, or accountability partner.

Above all, get out of the office into nature — unplug from the technology — and move your body.

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