How Stress Wrecks Your Health

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
– Nelson Mandela, civil rights icon, former president of South Africa (b.1918)

Resentment, bitterness, holding a grudge, being angry at anything for longer than 10 minutes, they’re all the same thing. And just as self destructive as each other. Maybe we should add shooting yourself in the foot as well.

The “enemy” never suffers the same way we do; the enemy has no idea that we are causing ourselves to suffer. Usually the “enemy” has forgotten about the disagreement a few minutes or hours after it happened.

Feuds have carried on for decades between two former friends, not because they had a disagreement but because one of them persists in holding a grudge. Sometimes the grudge and conflict continues even if both parties have forgotten what the issue was in the first place.

Conflict requires emotional energy. So does laughter. But laughter doesn’t continue indefinitely the way conflict does sometimes.

Conflict triggers the body’s fight or flight response, which pumps epinephrin (better known by the trade name Adrenalin) through the bloodstream. This is no big deal if the body returns to normal within a short period of time.

Trouble begins when the conflict and its emotional component continue, with epinephrin leaking into the bloodstream over a long period of time–weeks, months, years. The body interprets this as stress, more likely even as trauma. This kicks the immune system into high gear because that’s what the immune system was designed to do.

As conflict continues and the immune system remains steadily pumping its stuff around the body, it loses its ability to spot and eliminate other invaders or minor skirmishes such as cancer sites that come to life when the immune system isn’t around to keep the cancer cells in check.

The advancement of cancer due to stress is but one example. Many diseases and syndromes that cause people continual grief or even death can be precipitated by viruses. If viruses are allowed to flourish because the immune system has been too busy looking after stress (conflict) to do its job properly, illness will result.

Some of these illnesses happen because the immune system is so confused by being continually in action that it turns against itself. It treats its own issue as another enemy. Autoimmune responses that cause the immune system to self destruct are not a good thing.

Whether it be resentment, carrying a grudge or emotional stress of any kind (including the body’s response to continual lack of sufficient sleep), the body will eventually cause its own death if the emotional drain continues to run.

It’s all within our power to stop and to prevent such events from happening in our lives. Stress doesn’t just result from anger. Anger is often the consequence of constant stress from another source. Anger with a loved one, for example, usually has as its real source something that has nothing to do with the loved one.

It’s destructive, it’s dangerous and it usually ends up hurting more than just the life of the one person who allows the stress to continue.

Now you know. Tell someone.

Bill Allin
‘Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems,’ a book for adults who want to have children avoid the problems the older generation had growing up. That includes teaching kids how to avoid having stress ruin their lives.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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