Which comes first? Do our emotions affect us first and then this in turn affects our physical body? Or does our mental state affect influence our emotions and then our physical body?
Personally I subscribe to the theory that emotions drive our body/mind as they are signals from our true self that something needs to be examined because it will eventually affect our well-being overall. This means: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Emotions, how we feel, is our body/mind language, our way of communicating to the physical form what we need to do. It is like a message from our inner essence, our spirit, that we need to address something.
Which comes first is not relevant. The most important thing in stress management is to understand that you need to address it from all angles.
Physically, when a stressful event occurs, there is a physiological response that is automatic.
Our flight or fight response mechanism is activated. Blood rushes from our head and our digestion to our external limbs as we decide what we need to do. At the same time we are assessing whether the stress trigger is good or bad. Automatically we activate a chemical response whereby stress hormones are immediately sent rushing throughout our bodies and are theoretically sent to the appropriate places which need this information. The hormones are like messengers. They spread throughout the body to mobilise our cells into a response. However, if we are constantly in a state of stress, we can be constantly flooding our systems with these chemicals, and hence our stress mechanism can become stuck permanently on open.
Stress hormones are like chemicals and if we do not have sufficient coping skills to manage our physical stress, eventually these chemicals can affect our DNA. This can lead to dis-ease initially, and eventually disease if we continue to ignore our responses. These chemicals affect the ability of our cells to communicate effectively. When this happens other events are triggered within our body/mind: our blood sugar is affected and our insulin levels increase and so does our leptin. Leptin controls the hypothalamus, which regulates the release of hormones within our bodies. Over time increased production of insulin and leptin leads to a breakdown of our bodily functions such as digestion, elimination and metabolism.
This then can lead to various stress symptoms such as: our eating, our sleeping patterns, our emotional disharmony, mental clarity and so on.
What happens emotionally when a stress event occurs is that we continue to repeat negative life patterns that perhaps are not conducive to our overall health and well-being. When the automatic stress flight or fight response mechanism is activated physically what we do is to inhale, take a short breath in. We react to events rather than respond. IN effect we are saying: this event is similar to one that occurred way back when and we react accordingly. We then store that reaction, that in breath, into the file that is labelled by that emotion or similar event. When we store like events and emotions in various places in our bodies, either in organs, tissues, glands, bones, muscles or elsewhere, we are in effect, blocking off a part of us. We are either blocking a meridian or some aspect of our organs or glands. When these blockages occur and our energy is blocked, this can cause inflammation, and inflammation is a pre-cursor to disease. The extent of our blockages is the extent of the trauma or negative emotions and experiences that we have stored within that we have not dealt with or been able to manage throughout our lives. Our life experiences and the way we deal with them, or not, influences the extent of our emotional freedom. We react or we learn to respond. We become victims or we become rational, functioning beings.
Due to the automatic physical stress response inbuilt into our bodies, when the blood rushes away from our brains, our reasoning part, it can be difficult to make rational decisions. Mobilisation can be difficult, planning even more so and functioning effectively can be almost impossible. We become stuck in negativity, as negative, or purely survival emotions reside within our primitive brains, our limbic system, which is the one activated by the flight/fight mechanism. We have to be in a conscious state in order to think positive emotions.
The effects of stress on all of these body/mind systems automatically affects us spiritually, as by spirit, we mean, integration of the whole, our inner essence. If we are affected in every aspect of our body/mind, would it be possible to be in control of our overall well-being? Would we lose touch with who we truly are?
If we are going to manage stress in any way, shape or form, it is necessary to understand how stress affects our whole body/mind and take an holistic approach to management. Dealing with one aspect only will defeat the purpose of attaining overall well-being.