The Biology of Beating Stress is a powerful book that gets major points about stress across in a casual way. With quick and easily digestible reference points, each page is something readers will want to return to again and again.
In addition to breathing and relaxation techniques, The Biology of Beating Stress shows readers how to make the mental shift toward not merely managing their stress, but actually using stress to their advantage!
The way we interpret our stress and its effects directly affects our health and wellness. This book:
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About the Author
Jeanne Ricks is recent Director of Holistic Wellness Programs for The City College of New York. Her credentials include a bachelor's degree; and certificates earned in health counseling through Columbia University's Teacher's College in New York as well as from the Open Center in New York, through their professional training program in herbalism covering Traditional, Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Native American traditions. She holds certification from the National Guild of Hypnotists and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as a holistic health practitioner, and is a member of the Northeast Herbal Association.
Read an Excerpt
Whatis in your environment?
Whois in your environment?
Whereis your environment?
Howare you feeling in your body?
What Makes Us Sick?
For decades, science and doctors frightened us with scary warnings about predisposition to cancers and other illness (or "genetic determinism") that could be inherited from our family members. But more current, accurate research has proven that our genes aren't in the driver's seat.
Through epigenetics, we now know it's our environment that is in control — your genetic make-up is just a tiny fraction of the equation that determines your health. Your environment is more than just the air, soil, water, and climate. It's the complete combination of your diet, lifestyle, community, and cultural conditions that influence your life. These can and do change the expression of your genes.
We now understand that even your thoughts are another extremely important factor, from reactions to stress to your beliefs about the possibility of becoming sick.
You can learn a lot more information about epigenetics in Dr. Bruce Lipton's book The Biology of Belief, which says that we all perceive or make little judgments about our environment and then our biology adjusts to the information (or signals) that we send it about what we're experiencing — whether we are happy, aroused, sad, frightened, or under stress. This happens even when our perception is wrong. If I suggest that you imagine a rich, delicious candy bar sitting in your coat pocket, your body, solely upon my suggestion, will begin making changes in blood sugar levels in anticipation of the tasty treat.
Misperceptions about health and healing can accumulate throughout your lifetime with simple childhood associations, family superstitions, urban myths, or inaccurate news reporting. We also acquire limiting, self-sabotaging habitual thought patterns (worry, fear, doubt, anger), attitudes, and beliefs that chip away at our strength, health, and vitality.
Even if you're just working under misperceptions of your environment due to an inaccurate judgment, faulty understanding, or increased sensitivity, imbalance to your biology will occur. This explains why even young healthy people with no family history of disease can end up with cancer or some other ailment. There are even reports of healthy children adopted into a family with cancer history who develop that specific cancer. In all of these cases, their bodies have reacted to something in their environment.
Biology 101: Your DNA is the blueprint that informs the proteins that make up life. DNA is made up of two unique sequenced helical chains. One side of this chain is a physical compliment of the other, meaning the two strands are mirror images of each other. DNA is responsible for copying and replicating itself (RNA).
You're not just a single entity. Your body is a collection of more than 50 trillion cells and in one year you replace a whopping 98 percent of ALL the cells in your body. For every one cell of "you" there are 10 bacterial cells hitching a ride. You are actually a walking, talking, breathing colony of ever-changing and adapting cells.
Inside each cell, the chromosome will have two helical strands. Each of those strands will make a replication of itself and create two chromosomes — one will go into one daughter cell and the other will go into the other daughter cell. Simple, right?
The cell membrane — that thin little wall — is actually a functional element. Once it was thought just to be an irrelevant barrier, the skin that separates two dynamic realms, the inside and the outside of this ever-changing cellular universe. But really that thin cell membrane reads the conditions or environmental signals that your body sends it in reaction to some stimuli you've experienced, and then it actively adjusts, allowing or denying chemical messengers access to come and go. So although earlier science taught us that the nucleus was important, it's actually just taking orders from the membrane. The membrane acts quite simply as the "brain" of your cell and it takes its orders from you, or, more importantly, your reaction to your environment.
For a century, science incorrectly taught us that occasionally an error occurs within the billions of copied code chains, creating a change in the amino acids and therefore causing a protein with an altered structure (or mutation). These were named "Spontaneous Random Mutations" and they were given sole responsibility for all kinds of evolution and disease.
Well, it's completely wrong! Research biologists have discovered "repair mechanisms" right within our cell nuclei. These specialized proteins' sole function is to repair any errors, making it far less likely that all the events that led to evolution were caused by random process, because there was a very efficient mechanism in place to maintain fidelity.
Now why is that so darned important? Because you were not randomly created! Before this recent understanding, science made it seem as though your biology changed based on mistakes — crazy chance happenings that your body developed any ol' way. Instead, human biology changed in direct response to the environment around us. It kept us safe by adapting to environmental changes.
Based on this evidence, an experiment conducted by Dr. John Cairns, reported in the 1988 British Journal of Nature, proved that when an organism is stressed in reaction to its environment, it responds by that cell creating an enzyme (protein) to induce a mutation within the chromosome — purposely. When we're under stress, we have elevated levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a product that stems from the oxidation of fatty acids and that degrades the integrity of your cells. More studies, such as the research conducted by F. Marotta in 2011, concluded that psychosocial stress can cause system-wide imbalance of cellular homeostasis, accompanied by elevated oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory activity. This is proof that genetic mutation, evolution, or alteration is in direct response to environment.
So why is that significant? Why have I dragged you all the way back to your seventh-grade science class? Because this now puts extreme emphasis on the absolute need for you to create a more balanced environment for yourself — one that includes nurturing, a bonding emotional partnership, supportive friendships, an engaging work environment, fundamental quality nutrition, clean water, rest, and external and internal balance. So ask yourself these questions:
» What is in your environment?
» Who is in your environment?
» Where is your environment?
» How are you feeling in your body?
Answers to these questions weigh far more heavily on your health than the chains of proteins that you're made from. Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. It is likely that this factor may be more important than all the other physical aspects combined. So shouldn't we make attention to our emotional changes a priority?
Take a moment and simply think of your brain as a digital device and disease as one of its programs, which is switched on in specific circumstances of high stress or conflict, and switches off when the high or prolonged stress or conflict is released or resolved!
The signals that control your biology come from your body's direct response to your environment, which then creates the chemical reactions that cause illness, or health and well-being. It's the environment and how you perceive it and react to it, that is, psychological factors, that make all the difference in your health.
Even the greatest minds in quantum mechanics have not succeeded in overriding the effects of perception. The very nature of matter is expressed as "wave-particle duality," the concept that all energy (and therefore all matter) exhibits both wave-like and particle-like properties depending on how it is perceived.
"The field is the sole governing agency of the particle," is a quote commonly attributed to Einstein. Biologically speaking, we are those particles. Life, as we are able to comprehend it, is a simple collection of tinker toy–like chains of proteins, or at least that's how we make the distinction within the limitations of science.
Signals bind to proteins and change their shape; those shape-changes provide for the behavior in human physiology. Signal + Protein = Behavior. Signals come from your environment, or more specifically, your reaction to your environment. Energetic signals would be what we call "thoughts," and therefore, these too have significant effect!
What about that second element called protein? Could protein be the cause of disease? Well, a protein itself is based on the sequence of amino acids and may in fact be defective (mutated or distorted DNA or genetics). But that is very, very rare. It affects fewer than 5 percent of the people on this planet. With a percentage so small in contrast to the percentage of people actually exhibiting disease or cancer, the overwhelming conclusion is that the majority of illness and disease is caused by something in the signal, that is, the environment — not the protein.
What in your environment can cause a signal that interferes with protein function?
» Trauma: Some kind of major accident that results in a distortion of the info being exchanged between your brain and your body's cells, tissues, and organs. One example would be a broken limb that heals improperly, thereby physically impeding the transmission of the nervous system's signal.
» Toxicity: We've filled our environment with a wide variety of toxins. These can garble the signal's information on its path between your nervous system and your cells and tissues.
» Reaction to the Environment: By far the most common reason. Yep, the actions of your mind — perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes — including STRESS. Your health relies completely on your nervous system's ability to correctly distinguish information from your environment and appropriately adapt life-sustaining behaviors. If your mind misinterprets environmental signals and generates an inappropriate response, survival is threatened because the body's behaviors become out of synch with the environment.
The genes that you inherited from Mom and Dad are no more than blueprints. They are not self-actualizing or even controlling devices. Their fate is determined by information from your environment. You know this from your own experience. Ten people may be exposed to cold germs in an office; some will catch the cold, and each of those people will all have varying levels of symptoms. Others may not catch it at all. What's different? The strength of their immune systems, which is based on diet, sleep, fitness, relationships, and mood (including how stressed they feel).
This is not to say that stress in your environment is pure evil. Let's face it: some stress is absolutely necessary and appropriate. If early man had not kept alert and appropriately fearful of saber-toothed tigers, we would not be here to stress over food prices. Remember, perception is key and determines whether or not the stress is continual. Small amounts of stress have even been found to start the redistribution of immune cells, which can possibly aid your survival by sending protection where stress is occurring.
However, the major point is learning to monitor how you perceive the stress in your environment. That is why, in Chapter 2, we're going to learn how to stop for just a few minutes and take stock. We tend to glance right by our stress and stressors. This multi-level denial allows your body's stress reactions to accumulate and build up. At that point, it is more difficult to get it under control and even small things will set off a reaction that is out of proportion with your normal day-to-day feelings.
Research has proven that in those stress-filled moments, defining your stress as enhancing or as debilitating will determine not only how your body reacts, but how quickly your biological responses subside.
Through using the techniques described in this book, you can, in time, learn to use your stress and make it work for you instead of against you. You can positively alter your behavioral and physiological outcomes from stress in your environment through learning to change your reaction. So, what makes us sick? We can answer that with another question.
What's in Your Environment?
Here are a couple common things you can consider in your physical environment to get the ball rolling:
» Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, household chemical cleaners, Teflon and Teflon-coated fabrics, plastics with Bisphenol A (BPA), fluorinated telomeres in fast-food packaging, dry-cleaning chemicals, synthetic air fresheners, and air pollution.
» When possible, limit your exposure and provide protection for yourself from radiation produced by large utility poles and transformer station groups, cell phone towers, base stations, and WiFi stations.
That's just a start. There are many more things to consider, which are personal and more specific to your life. Ask yourself: What do you control in your environment that you can change, balance, or improve to increase your health right now?CHAPTER 2
What's affectionately referred to as "Belly Fat" is a direct indicator of STRESS!
Stress: The Equal Opportunity Assassin
Why do I keep harping on the need to let things go? Or the need to Be more and stress less? Because stress will kill you. We all walk around talking about how stressed out we are as part of casual conversation, but it is a serious concern. It affects all socio-economic levels, geographic areas, age groups, genders, and races. They've got it in China, Turkey, and Iceland. It is so pervasive that the United States has named April National Stress Awareness month!
Chronic stress can cause issues such as suppression of thyroid function, cognitive impairment, increased blood pressure, decreased bone density, blood sugar imbalances, fatigue and weakness, suppression of the immune system, muscle and bone loss, moodiness or depression, hormonal imbalances, skin problems, hair loss, autoimmune disorders, and insulin resistance.
Another statistic related to too much stress is heart attacks. In the United States, a heart attack occurs about every 20 seconds, with a heart attack death about every minute. The CDC estimates that 25.6 million, or 11.3 percent of all people aged 20 years or older in the United States have diabetes. Here is a list of life's most stressful events:
» Death of your spouse, family member, or friend.
» Divorce or marital separation.
» Personal injury or illness.
» Losing your job.
» Drastic change in the health of a family member.
» Sexual dysfunction.
» Birth of a child.
» Change in business status.
» Change in financial status.
» Unresolved relationship problems.
You see, stress is a relatively new phenomenon on the human development timeline. Our bodies have not had a chance to adapt to this new concept. When your nervous system gets an intense jolt of stress, your body reacts in the same way that it would if you were in eminent danger of death.
Say you're on the phone with customer service and you've been transferred about three or four times while waiting to speak to a real person. You're pretty steamed, and the obnoxious music playing is only adding to your irritation. You reach for something to munch on as you pass the time. FINALLY! Someone comes on the line, but the call gets dropped.
Let's take a look at what just happened in your body during that episode. Your nervous system has alerted your brain that there is massive danger — possibly a man-eating tiger. Your brain gets the signal and snaps into action. Sometimes this is called the "fight-or-flight response." The adrenal glands, two walnut-sized, innocent-looking triangular-shaped organs that sit perched atop your kidneys, are switched on. They start releasing stress hormones through the synthesis of corticosteroids (cortisol and catecholamines such as epinephrine [adrenaline] and norepinephrine). The cortisol releases glucose into your bloodstream for energy. In other words, your blood sugar gets immediately elevated under stress. You can't fight danger when your blood sugar is low, so it amps up to help you meet the challenge.
A domino effect takes place. All available resources have been switched over to increase your energy level toward movement, because it's assumed that you're about to sprint away full speed from danger and your brain wants you to have every ounce of strength it can muster for your mad dash. So it minimizes all the resources that were going to your digestion (after all, you aren't going to have time for fine dining while on the run), and it reduces your carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism, as well as fluid and electrolyte balance. It lowers your immunity and inflammatory responses. Muscle tissue is tapped to produce more glucose for energy. Triglycerides get mobilized from your fat tissues. You actually have reduced sensitivity to pain and your skin temperature changes. It even turns off your sex drive. (This is no time for making "whoopie.") And the little guys in the boiler room are working overtime to pump up your cardiovascular function, speeding up the heart and contracting blood vessels, which increases your blood pressure. Adjustments are made in the resistance to airflow both in and out of your lungs by altering the diameter of the branches of the bronchial tree. Meanwhile, it calculates your likely need for quick-burning energy to get you going (glucose and triglycerides were already consumed by your cells in preparation for activity), so that subliminal craving you had to munch on something sweet or fatty was not random. That was your brain nudging you to provide it with some additional kindling for this fire it is building. You're irritated talking on the phone, but your body now has the boiler fully stoked and blazing hot. Whew! A lot happens very quickly when you are under stress.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Biology of Beating Stress"
Copyright © 2014 Jeanne Ricks, CHC.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note 9
1 What Makes Us Sick? 16
2 Stress: The Equal Opportunity Assassin 24
3 Breathe Your Way to Better Mental and Physical Health 36
4 Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy (Food as Information) 42
5 Stretching 80
6 Movement 86
7 Anxiety (or Dance With the Elephants) 100
8 Meditation (Your Mini-Vacation) 124
9 Brainwave Entrainment 128
10 Sleep (Get More!) 136
About the Author 189
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've listened to so many heath guru's that I am a little skeptical about their suggestions. This time I am really impressed. I understand the practical and the technical. She makes so much sense. Many of her prescriptions are so easy to understand and to do. Just the alternating nostril breathing. Everyone who cares about their overall health can be helped by this one.
Using Jeanne Ricks cutting edge Brainwave Entrainment and VibroAcoustic Therapies healing modalities which encourage and strengthen the body's own natural mechanisms of recovery and restore balance and reduce stress to those areas of the body’s systems that are out of balance. The information in this book works.