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The symptoms of stress

If you have any of these, you are suffering from stress. All of the following are medically recognized as symptoms of stress:

  • Depression and/or anxietyStress
  • Sugar, alcohol, nicotene or drug dependence
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Digestive imbalances
  • Heart strain / palpitations / chest pains
  • Loss of appetite or uncontrollable appetite
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Chronic illness
  • Lowered immunity

Anyone who’s had a brush with psychology will know that many clues to our lives today lie in the deep waters of our past. Now, extensive studies are showing that what we experience in childhood affects our entire lives – and that researchers are now able to measure this.

According to studies[1], adversity in childhood can be the precursor to deep depression and anxiety later in life. Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES, also have a marked correlation to pain, mental disorders, suicide attempts, autoimmune disease, addiction and all sorts of chronic illnesses from asthma to cancer. Cellular biologist, renowned author and one of the pioneers in his field, Dr. Bruce Lipton, estimates that as much as 95% of disease can be traced back to ACES.

The question of course is why this happens, and how. The problem, it turns out, is when Adverse Childhood Experiences cause stress that is chronic (ongoing for a period) and unpredictable (the child never knows when the stress-event is going to occur).

[1] Adverse Childhood Experiences study by Dr. Vincent J. Felitti (MD, director and founder, California Institutes of Preventative Medicine),  and Dr. Robert Anda (MD, medical epidemiologist at US Centre for Disease Control)


Stress and the human body

The human body and mind has an enormous capacity to handle stress. Our fight or flight response is designed to cope with sudden stressors that appear and then go away – like a bear unexpectedly leaping out of the forest. Adrenaline pumps, blood rushes to our muscles and we either fight or flee. What we are not good at coping with is when the proverbial bear is constantly prowling around the house. We never know where it is or when it is going to pounce.

For example, if we had a depressed or addicted parent – one day they are sober and available, the next they’re lying on the couch, unable to respond to our needs. Or a hyper-critical parent with anger issues – one minute they are calm, the next they are jumping down our throat for a behavior we may not even know is ‘wrong’. To cope with this, children develop a constant state of hypervigilance. But what this means is a continual ‘wash’ of cortisol and other stress hormones coursing through our bodies.

We also now know that our bodies never forget, and sweeping things under the carpet without dealing with them doesn’t make them go away! In fact, the constant flood of stress hormones resets our stress response to a much higher level for the rest of our lives. Daily pressures that we should be able to handle with ease are magnified – and our bodies over-produce cortisol to cope. We are labelled as ‘stress bunnies’; we react to the smallest provocation with an inappropriately intense response. Other indicators of chronic childhood stress is a ‘cortisol tummy’ – a layer of belly fat around our middle that we cannot seem to lose; and of course the host of diseases labelled ‘stress-related’, many of which have no medical cure.

Our capacity to handle every day or situational stress is greatly increased when we heal from the subconscious chidlhood-generated stress from our lives. Healing subconscious stress releases vast reserves of energy and capacity. Not only that, but we land up being happier, more content, peaceful and joyful human beings. Our relationships flourish, our health improves, even our careers take off.