“We’ve evolved to be smart enough to make ourselves sick.”
– Robert Sapolsky, PhD, Stanford University
Stress is inevitable. Our body’s response to stress is adaptive — it’s meant to help us muster the resources to respond to danger. The physiological cascade of events during a truly stressful (i.e., actual threat) event is driven by stress hormones, which initiate a carefully orchestrated, instantaneous response that moves blood to large muscles (the thighs, for example), increases blood pressure and heart rate, and shuts down all other activities. The response is key to survival and is meant to occur in short bursts that last a relatively brief period of time. After the stress response ends, our bodies go back to repairing and resting — building and healing in preparation for the next challenge. When stress becomes too frequent, however — prolonged enough to become chronic — the formerly helpful response begins to create havoc.
Chronic stress is maladaptive. When the stress response is kept active by psychological mechanisms — what we think about, worry, panic, fears, depression, and constant demands — It compromises physical and psychological health in a variety of ways. The immune system is weakened. DNA ages faster. People are at greater risk for gastrointestinal and heart diseases. Blood pressure increases as does the risk of adult onset diabetes.
Chronic stress affects growth and brain development in children. Cognitive function, reproduction, and bowel function in adults are impaired. Chronic stress is, in short, one of the most damaging states, which exhausts us physiologically and psychologically. Thankfully, it is a response we can modify. Like all other disorders we treat at NSI, chronic stress is best managed by modifying psychological responses via Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and physiological responses via meditation or a similar contemplative practice that increases awareness and helps us reduce our reactions. How we think determines how we respond.
Mindfulness skills can teach us to think more truthfully and adaptively. These skills teach us how to pay attention to our lives in a way that reduces the stress response. We can learn ways to cultivate happiness and gratitude. These states (happiness and gratitude) are palliative — they prevent suffering by mustering the biological state opposite to stress, making rest and repair possible. Dr. Keith Saylor uses CBT, biofeedback training (vagal tone training), meditation, and yoga as tools in a comprehensive approach to reduce chronic stress. He is a registered yoga teacher (RYT) and includes intensive individual Raja Yoga training if clients wish. All of the interventions used to modify chronic stress responses are supported by the state of the science of stress reduction. There are fewer things better for our health than addressing and managing chronic stress.
Our Stress Treatments Include
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Biofeedback training
- Individual or group therapy