According to the American Institute of Stress, between 75 and 90 percent of all visits to primary-care physicians result from stress-related disorders.
I’ve been reading a great book, Deadly Emotions by Don Colbert, M.D. Much of what he is talking about has to do with understanding how the mind, body and spirit all are connected. When you are not healthy emotionally or spiritually, it is almost impossible to be healthy physically. I have always believed that our thoughts, emotions, body and spirit are all connected and affect each other.
Here are some statements from early in the book:
“The mind and body are linked. How you feel emotionally can determine how you feel physically.”
“Certain emotions release hormones into the physical body that, in turn, can trigger the development of a host of diseases.”
“Researchers have directly and scientifically linked emotions to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and disease related to the immune system. Studies have also highly correlated emotions with infections, allergies and autoimmune diseases.”
He compares how you get rid of dandelions or crabgrass. If you just mow over them or snap off the top, it may look good for a short period of time, but soon it is back and stronger. His point is you have to get the root if you want to get rid of the weed.
We often try to do what we can to get rid of the immediate symptom and don’t go after the root. We take medication and the problem comes back, we take another round of treatment and the problem comes back, over and over again, often with out much success. Many times we only mask the real problems, by treating the visible symptoms.
The author talks at length about stress and how it affects the body. “The body doesn’t know or care what caused the stress. All the body knows is that it is experiencing stress.” He defines stress as mental or physical tension, strain, or pressure. This often occurs when our perception of events don’t meet our expectations and we do not manage our reaction well. For example when your spouse does not meet your expectations you get stressed out. You might expect your spouse to pay the bills, do the laundry, fix the car or change the diapers. When that does not happen it can cause tension, strain or pressure in the relationship if you don’t manage your response.
According to Dr. Colbert, An emotion like fear, triggers more than fourteen hundred known physical and chemical stress reactions and activates more than thirty different hormones and neurotransmitters. If that happens a lot, your body gets slammed with these hormones and can get out of whack over time.
Some emotions are much more damaging than others. Several that he lists are rage, unforgiveness, depression, anger, worry, frustration, fear, grief, and guilt. These emotions when experienced over long periods of time will most likely cause physical illness or disease.
Did you know that just thinking about a previous deep emotional hurt can cause the body to respond as if those hurts are occurring in that very moment? The longer you dwell on those old hurts and wounds the more you condition your body to respond to the stress more quickly. After awhile one small thought about a person or past situation can trigger a high level of stress within seconds.
Maybe you are feeling highly stressed right now. Maybe you are experiencing some of these damaging emotions on a daily basis. If that is the case, you are heading for some serious health problems or are having severe health problems. You need to get help in getting healthy emotionally. Maybe its seeing a counselor or pastor. Maybe it is meeting with a mentor. Here are a few areas to focus on:
- Identify irrational or distorted thinking and replace it with truth
- Forgive – that is a big one for most people
- Experience joy again through deep contentment (Laughing & Smiling are great medicine)
- Peace is for everyone and brings healing – Slow down and learn to relax
- Understand what it means to love – Love yourself and others. Read 1 Cor. 13:4-8
Emotional health is so important to our overall health. I hope you will take this seriously and make it a high priority this next year to work on your emotional health. I will continue to share insights from this book and others on this topic as I read and process the information.