ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Strategies for Successful Living
Critical Concept: Coping Mechanisms
Fortunately, over thousands of generations, your body has developed incredible physiological coping mechanisms for adapting to stress. Unfortunately, this genetic adaptation didn’t involve adapting to chronic or long-term stress, with one exception - up until the last two hundred years or so, the only true chronic or long-term stress that man ever knew was famine. Today, our seemingly never-ending stress is resulting in non-stop stress hormone production that is undermining our health in many ways..
The very same stress hormones that are released under the prolonged duress of famine or starvation course through our blood stream when we experience prolonged stress in our modern world. These hormones change our global physiology and create a derangement of our metabolism. In other words, chronic stress promotes fat storage, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, elevated blood fats, and compromised immune function (read obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer). Specifically, a hormone called cortisol is released in times of stress. Among other things, cortisol promotes the accumulation of the intra-abdominal or visceral fat called omentum – also known as “stress gut.” The body’s creation of belly fat was originally intended for sustenance during the long, cold winter months when game was harder to come by. Today, we face a veritable triple-whammy with drive-thru burger joints, a horrifically sedentary lifestyle, and an abundance of emotional or mental stress.
The take away for stress management:
- FUEL: Eat Cleaner – lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and quality protein; no sugar, no grains, no processed vegetable oils
- AIR: Move often – daily exercise to the point of exertion not only virtually erases the effects of stress, but will enable you to handle more stress before your body suffers from stress-induced breakdown.
- SPARK: Go deep – get a handle on your sleep/rest schedule, your level of gratitude or thankfulness in your life, and feeding your mental/emotional self with ‘quiet time’, spiritual reading, and e-fasting (that’s deliberate periods no TV, computer, phone or internet)
Our modern ‘unnatural environment’ has led to an epidemic stress-derived chronic disease and the dreaded “stress-gut.” Beyond aesthetics, omentum is considered one of the strongest predictors of heart disease and cancer. This fat actually increases our blood pressure by pressing up against our kidneys – influencing the hormones that regulate blood pressure. Ironically, this same brilliant hormonal mechanism that helped man adapt and overcome the chronic stressors of yesterday is at the center of the number one killer of man today.
So what’s a human to do? Well people develop coping mechanisms. It has long been recognized that journaling your life’s experiences is one of the most effective strategies to manage stress. Each week you will engage your thoughts onto paper, answering thought-provoking and insightful questions to gain a greater understanding of how you think and the consequences of not only your thoughts but your reactions and how they affect all areas of your life, health and relationships. The first week’s Spark Journaling Exercises pertain to the Seven Lifetime Value Accounts (please read this for a detailed explanation of this concept and process).
At the crux of almost everyone’s mental stress are the demands placed on our limited resources; namely our time, energy, focus and money. The world seems to have an insatiable appetite for these things; everyday it seems that there are more demands and fewer resources. In the economy of our lives, we must recognize the need for strategies that protect our limited resources. If we are to be truly happy – and find peace of mind – we must strive to master managing these four assets. For example, in the area of money or personal finances, creating a ‘Peace of Mind Account’is one of those coping strategies that lead to a desired outcome.
Well people don’t necessarily experience any less stress; they simply develop better strategies and coping mechanisms for dealing with it. The Bonfire Health Program will empower you to choose healthier perspectives and responses to stress, as well as offering specific strategies and mechanisms for mitigating the effects of stress and reducing its occurrences. The Spark Insights will equip you with best practices and vital behaviors that have been proven effective by everyday people in real world settings.
Life is full of surprises - get ready for them.