You are being paid and rewarded to deliver. Delivery diminishes with stress. Stress is a short term necessity, but a long term life and delivery killer. You are not being paid to be in sustained worry, anxiety, uncertainty, loss, fear, agitation, because these things make your contribution less productive and unsustainable. 

Mind noise therefore  will, as we have just noted, ruin your career, health and interpersonal relationships. This is why the process of WALKACHI, is a daily seven step process to both pacify stress, prevent sustained stress, keep the future clear, adapt to change without loss.

TRANSCRIPT

I had lived 14 good years before enduring my first emotional heart break — odds quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but miserably unfortunate in the immediate experience of it. 

I found myself completely incapacitated in my daily life — too foggy to read and write, too physically weak to work out or even go to school. So I stole a few cars, did a fw break and enters and smashed a few windows. After which I was fine again. 

The temporary disability of heartbreak soon elevated to an assault on my dignity, mind and body to a new height of anguish: an intense experience of stress. What next I thought? Am I doomed to hell for life?

Even as I consoled myself with my nocturnal venting against the establishment, no, that’s not true, against everything, including even those who consoled me, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming malaise that had engulfed me — somehow, a physical illness had completely coloured my psycho-emotional reality. I was really fucked up.

This experience, of course, is far from uncommon. 

Long before my self imposed punishment to study weight lifting began shedding light on how my mind and body actually affect one another, I had an intuitive understanding of this dialogue between body and emotions. Feelings in my family ran everything, and they were definitely not based on any form of logic that I could discern.

We used “feeling sick” as a grab-bag term for both the sensory symptoms — fever, fatigue, nausea — and the psychological malaise of my step mum on yet another violence fuelled alcoholic binge in which she’d inevitable go missing for a few days before driving her small morris minor up a pole or some gutter somewhere. We also had a nice bunch of emotions woven into our lives like sadness and offence taken at relatives.

Traditional  medicine, in fact, has recognised this link between disease and emotion for millennia. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian Ayurvedic physicians all enlisted the theory of the four humours — blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm — in their healing practices, believing that imbalances in these four visible secretions of the body caused disease and were themselves often caused by the emotions. 

These beliefs are fossilized in our present language — melancholy comes from the Latin words for “black” (melan) and “bitter bile” (choler), and we think of a melancholic person as gloomy or embittered; a phlegmatic person is languid and impassive, for phlegm makes one lethargic.

But the very tenets that laid the foundation of modern science — the idea that truth comes only from what can be visibly seen and proven beyond doubt — severed this link between the physical body and the emotions; those mysterious and fleeting forces, the biological basis of which the tools of modern neuroscience are only just beginning to understand, seemed to exist entirely outside the realm of what could be examined with the tools of rationalism.

For nearly three centuries, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health remained scientific taboo — setting out to fight one type of dogma, Descartes and his rational thinking model had inadvertently created another, which we’re only just beginning to shake off. 

It was only in the 1950s that Austrian-Canadian physician and physiologist Hans Selye pioneered the notion of stress as we now know it today, drawing the scientific community’s attention to the effects of stress on physical health and popularising the concept around the world. 

In addition to his scientific dedication, Selye also understood the branding component of any successful movement and worked tirelessly to include the word itself in dictionaries around the world; today, “stress” is perhaps the word pronounced most similarly in the greatest number of major languages.

But no researcher has done more to illuminate the invisible threads that weave mind and body together than Dr. Esther Sternberg. Her groundbreaking work on the link between the central nervous system and the immune system, exploring how immune molecules made in the blood can trigger brain function that profoundly affects our emotions, has revolutionised our understanding of the integrated being we call a human self. In the immeasurably revelatory The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions , Sternberg examines the interplay of our emotions and our physical health, mediated by that seemingly nebulous yet, it turns out, remarkably concrete experience called stress.

With an eye to modern medicine’s advances in cellular and molecular biology, which have made it possible to measure how our nervous system and our hormones affect our susceptibility to diseases as varied as depression, arthritis, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, Sternberg writes:

By parsing these chemical intermediaries, we can begin to understand the biological underpinnings of how emotions affect diseases…

The same parts of the brain that control the stress response … play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. And since it is these parts of the brain that also play a role in depression, we can begin to understand why it is that many patients with inflammatory diseases may also experience depression at different times in their lives… 

Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. 

Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other. 

The questions need to be rephrased, therefore, to ask which of the many components that work together to create emotions also affect that other constellation of biological events, immune responses, which come together to fight or to cause disease. Rather than asking if depressing thoughts can cause an illness of the body, we need to ask what mind noise triggers what nerve pathways are that cause depressing thoughts, and then we need to explore how these affect the cells and molecules that cause disease.

We are even beginning to sort out how emotional memories reach the parts of the brain that control the hormonal stress response, and how such emotions can ultimately affect the workings of the immune system and thus affect illnesses as disparate as arthritis and cancer.

We also know in reverse,  how signals from the immune system can affect the brain and the emotional and physical responses it controls: the molecular basis of feeling sick. In all this, the boundaries between mind and body are beginning to blur.

Indeed, the relationship between memory, emotion, and stress is perhaps the most fascinating aspect Innerwealth work. Consider how we deal with mind noise, the constant swirl of inputs and outputs as we move through the world, barraged by a stream of stimuli and sensations.

Every minute of the day and night we feel thousands of sensations, agitations, that might trigger a positive emotion such as happiness, or a negative emotion such as sadness, or no emotion at all: 

A trace of perfume, a light touch, a fleeting shadow, a strain of music. And there are thousands of physiological responses, such as palpitations or sweating, that can equally accompany positive emotions such as love, or negative emotions such as fear, or can happen without any emotional tinge at all. 

What makes these sensory inputs and physiological outputs emotions is the charge that gets added to them somehow, somewhere in our brains. Emotions in their fullest sense comprise all of these components. 

Each agitation can lead into the black box (your mind) and produce an emotional experience, or something in the black box can lead out to an emotional response that seems to come from nowhere.

Memory, it turns out, is one of the major factors mediating the dialogue between sensory input and emotional experience. 

Our memories of past experience become encoded into triggers that act as switchers on the rail of psycho-emotional response, directing the incoming train of present experience in the direction of one emotional destination or another.

Mood is not homogeneous like cream soup. It is more like Swiss cheese, filled with holes. The triggers are highly specific, tripped by sudden trails of memory: a faint fragrance, a few bars of a tune, a vague silhouette that tapped into a sad memory buried deep, but not completely erased. These sensory inputs that occur in the moment float through layers of time in the parts of the brain that control memory, and they pull out with them not only reminders of senses once triggered but also trails of the emotions that were first connected to the memory. 

These memories become connected to emotions, which are processed in other parts of the brain: the amygdala for fear, the nucleus accumbens for pleasure — those same parts that the anatomists had named for their shapes. And these emotional brain centres are linked by nerve pathways to the sensory parts of the brain and to the frontal lobe and hippocampus — the coordinating centres of thought and memory.

The same sensory input can trigger a negative emotion or a positive one, depending on the memories associated with it.

This is where stress comes in — much like memory mediates how we interpret and respond to various experiences, a complex set of biological and psychological factors determine how we respond to stress. 

Some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, mobilising us into action and creative potency; others can be draining and incapacitating, leaving us frustrated and hopeless. 

This dichotomy of good vs. bad stress is determined by the biology underpinning our feelings — by the dose and duration of the stress hormones secreted by the body in response to the stressful stimulus. 

As soon as the stressful event occurs, it triggers the release of the cascade of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones — the brain’s stress response. It also triggers the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, or adrenaline, and the sympathetic nerves to squirt out the adrenaline-like chemical norepinephrine all over the body: nerves that wire the heart, and gut, and skin. So, the heart is driven to beat faster, the fine hairs of your skin stand up, you sweat, you may feel nausea or the urge to defecate. But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear, a surge of power helps you run — these same chemicals released from nerves make blood flow to your muscles, preparing you to sprint.

All this occurs quickly. If you were to measure the stress hormones in your blood or saliva, they would already be increased within three minutes of the event. In experimental psychology tests, playing a fast-paced video game will make salivary cortisol increase and norepinephrine spill over into venous blood almost as soon as the virtual battle begins. But if you prolong the stress, by being unable to control it or by making it too potent or long-lived, and these hormones and chemicals still continue to pump out from nerves and glands, then the same molecules that mobilised you for the short haul now debilitate you.

These effects of stress exist on a bell curve — that is, some is good, but too much becomes bad: As the nervous system secretes more and more stress hormones, performance increases, but up to a point; after that tipping point, performance begins to suffer as the hormones continue to flow. What makes stress “bad” — that is, what makes it render us more pervious to disease — is the disparity between the nervous system and immune system’s respective pace. 

The nervous system and the hormonal stress response react to a stimulus in milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. The immune system takes parts of hours or days. It takes much longer than two minutes for immune cells to mobilise and respond to an invader, so it is unlikely that a single, even powerful, short-lived stress on the order of moments could have much of an effect on immune responses. 

However, when the stress turns chronic, immune defences begin to be impaired. As the stressful stimulus hammers on, stress hormones and chemicals continue to pump out. This is the negative impact of agitation, mind noise. It causes chronic worry, stress and therefore triggers overload in the immune system.

Immune cells floating in this milieu in blood, or passing through the spleen, or growing up in thymic nurseries never have a chance to recover from the unabated rush of cortisol. 

Since cortisol shuts down immune cells’ responses, shifting them to a muted form, less able to react to foreign triggers, in the context of continued stress we are less able to defend and fight when faced with new invaders. And so, if you are exposed to, say, a flu or common cold virus when you are chronically stressed out, your immune system is less able to react and you become more susceptible to that infection.

Extended exposure to stress, especially to a variety of stressors at the same time — any combination from the vast existential menu of life-events like moving, divorce, a demanding job, the loss of a loved one, and even ongoing childcare — adds up a state of extreme exhaustion that leads to what we call burnout. But most of all, the agitation that the mind noise of these events can cause becomes the default for people, they lose their ground zero and unknowingly move forward carrying agitation.

Members of certain professions are more prone to burnout than others — nurses and teachers, for example, are among those at highest risk. These professionals are faced daily with caregiving situations in their work lives, often with inadequate pay, inadequate help in their jobs, and with too many patients or students in their charge. But it is also a self selecting sample. It is only certain types of thinkers who choose those occupations.

Some studies are beginning to show that burnt-out patients may have not only psychological burnout, but also physiological burnout: adrenal fatigue. a flattened cortisol response and inability to respond to any stress with even a slight burst of cortisol. In other words, chronic unrelenting stress can change the stress response itself. And it can change other hormone systems in the body as well. All of which can lead to illness of a life threatening nature.

One of the most profound such changes affects the reproductive system — extended periods of stress can shut down the secretion of reproductive hormones in both men and women, resulting in lower fertility. But the effects are especially perilous for women — recurring and extended episodes of depression result in permanent changes in bone structure, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In other words, we register stress literally in our bones.

But stress isn’t a direct causal function of the circumstances we’re in — what either amplifies or ameliorates our experience of stress is, once again, memory.

Our perception of stress, and therefore our response to it, is an ever-changing thing that depends a great deal on the circumstances and settings in which we find ourselves. It depends on previous experience and knowledge, as well as on the actual event that has occurred. And it depends on memory, too.

The most acute manifestation of how memory modulates stress is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For striking evidence of how memory encodes past experience into triggers, which then catalyse present experience, researchers found both Holocaust survivors and their first-degree relatives — that is, children and siblings — exhibited a similar hormonal stress response.

This, could be a combination of nature and nurture — the survivors, as young parents for whom the trauma was still fresh, may well have subconsciously taught their children a common style of stress-responsiveness; but it’s also possible that these automatic hormonal stress responses permanently changed the parents’ biology and were transmitted via DNA to their children. Once again, memory encodes stress into our very bodies. 

Stress need not be on the order of war, rape, or the Holocaust to trigger at least some elements of PTSD. Common stresses that we all experience can trigger the emotional memory of a stressful circumstance — and all its accompanying physiological responses. Prolonged stress — such as divorce, a hostile workplace, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one — can all trigger elements of PTSD.

Among the major stressors — which include life-events expected to be on the list, such as divorce and the death of a loved one — is also one somewhat unexpected situation, at least to those who haven’t undergone it: moving. The commonalities between something as devastating as death or divorce and something as mundane as moving is an amazing correlation.

One is certainly loss — the loss of someone or something familiar. Another is novelty — finding oneself in a new and unfamiliar place because of the loss. 

Together these amount to change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t.

An unfamiliar environment is a universal stressor to nearly all species, no matter how developed or undeveloped.

One such environment is the home and the relationship we share with a significant other. Reducing stress causing mind noise requires us to explore interpersonal relationships in both contributing to stress and shielding us from it, how the immune system changes our moods, and what we can do to harness these neurobiological insights in alleviating our experience of the stressors with which every human life is strewn. Environment is not just physical. Environment is relationship and, as with moving house, moving relationship can be as stressful as dealing with death. It is all loss. Which is, another way to position change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t.

Your job offers yet another environment. And the opportunities for stress are exponential. The higher you rise in a field of art the more change becomes a matter of life and death. change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t. Therefore the faster we can turn something we don’t know into something we do know, the less stressed we will be.

In relationship breakdown this is called rebound. I art and career it is called, reinventing yourself. And as the pace of life accelerates, the need to embrace mastery of change becomes critical for preventing immune breakdown and an early grave.

In you relationship or career, you are not being rewarded for or paid to carry long term stress. We have acknowledged the need for spikes of stress that come and go, but we have seen that these spikes can also trigger longer, more sustained stress which is more sinister and hidden from view. Stress can also trigger memories and this means the source of stress might be dealt with but the underlying memory might be woken up at put you in hyper alert without knowing it.

You are being paid and rewarded to deliver. Delivery diminishes with stress. Stress is a short term necessity, but a long term life and delivery killer. You are not being paid to be in sustained worry, anxiety, uncertainty, loss, fear, agitation, because these things make your contribution less productive and unsustainable. 

Mind noise therefore  will, as we have just noted, ruin your career, health and interpersonal relationships. This is why the process of WALKACHI, is a daily seven step process to both pacify stress, prevent sustained stress, keep the future clear, adapt to change without loss.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and be inspired