Stress Your Mind, Stress Your Health

I have had some very exciting conversations with Dr. Rakesh Jain, Director of Psychiatric Drug Research for the RD Clinical Research Center at Lake Jackson, Texas.  He’s the author of numerous scientific articles and has done extensive research on the relationship between pain, stress and mood disorders.  Dr. Jain feels that “the whole separation between mind and body that we have had for over 100 years has been an error and it’s an error that actually has cost us quite a bit.”  We have come to the realization that mind and body are one and the same and are bidirectional in nature.  In other words, the body affects the mind as much as the mind affects the body. In current day Medicine, we focus so heavily just on the mind or body.  When we do that, patients suffer.   They don’t get good results.

 I’ve met so many patients who are struggling with how to manage and integrate their concepts of spiritual well-being and physiologic health.  Quite often, their thoughts and emotions are counterproductive.  How do we reconcile that?

 Dr. Charles Raison, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine and the Mental Health Expert, Mind-Body Consultant for CNN.com, thinks that this mind-body dichotomy may have been useful at some point in the past.  However, it really keeps us from moving forward, both theoretically and more practically.  We know that, in general, states of mind that are positive, such as happiness and optimism, or those promoting good relationships with other people, have effects on the body that promote health.  This ties in with the role of consciousness as the interface with Creator allowing us access to more positive energy to promote well-being. The flow of positive emotional energy and peacefulness decrease inflammatory processes, so you are not as likely to get a whole bunch of modern illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and depression.  Also, positive emotions seem to bolster the immune system, vital for fighting viruses and other types of infections.  We have already been discussing in prior posts how mind and consciousness convert emotion into physical change in the body. The new evidence on the immune system responses to stress indicates that we unknowingly attack our own brain system via immune invasion during illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are overwhelming data that this is the case, that mental states can affect the immune system.  

 Mental states activate both the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and they activate the autonomic nervous system.  These are the two classic stress systems by which mental processes affect the body. There is a lot of evidence that stress, anger and upset affect these health systems in ways that can be really good or really bad.  In places where there has been a big earthquake, for example, Northridge, California or Tohoku, Japan, the rate of people dying from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia or heart attack, which is generally driven by the stress system, the autonomic nervous system, increased up to 25 times the normal rate, in the first days after the event.  These are not people who were injured by the earthquake.   The stress of the experience drives body pathways in ways that are bad for your health and set you up for problems.  Next time, I’ll share info on how stress affects us in different ways.