How to Deal with Stress by Nicholas Gonzalez MD

I believe that our thoughts and mood profoundly influence nervous system activity, and in turn, our ability to heal. And I have found in my own practice that the attitudes of my patients, specifically their ability to deal with stress effectively, can be the difference between success and failure with treatment.

Under any type of stress, be it physical, emotional or psychological, the sympathetic nervous system fires. In turn, this activity stimulates the breakdown of body tissues to provide immediate energy to deal with the stressful event. Though in the short term such a response will help us deal effectively with a stressful incident, over time, with prolonged stress, the body tissues and organs will start deteriorating, and disease will inevitably result – as Dr. Selye proved decades ago.

So when you have anxiety, you turn on the sympathetic nervous system. When you have no faith that things are going to go well, you have to live in a state of vigilance. When we live in a state of vigilance, the sympathetic nervous system fires constantly. When the sympathetic nervous system fires constantly, you get way too acid, cell membranes get way too tight, nutrients and enzymes can’t get to the site of a hard cancer tumor, and the lack of faith in physiological channels leads to death, period. It happens all the time.

For patients with hard cancer tumors, the main problem is the sympathetic system is already too strong (too acid) and the membranes are too tight, and the membranes of the tumors are too tight and patients own immune system and the patient’s own pancreatic enzymes couldn’t get at that tumor.

Now when the sympathetic nervous system is very strong and active in producing lots of adrenaline, which is one of its main hormones, some membranes seem to get very tight. Similar to if you inject adrenaline into somebody, the muscles tend to get tense, with a twitching in the mouth, and in their jaws, then the jaws will tense up.

Meditation, prayer, positive thinking – however hokey at times it might seem – actually neurochemically block sympathetic firing, and instead stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system into action. The parasympathetic nerves, when firing, enhance digestion, the absorption and utilization of nutrients, the building up of tissues, rather than their breaking down. These “relaxation techniques,” from a purely physiologically perspective, do lead to a healing response.

Normal Cousins, the well-known magazine editor from the 1970’s, cured himself of a serious autoimmune disease with laughter and nutrition. He rented comedy movies and just kept himself laughing even as his doctors insisted he was facing death. He ultimately recovered – I believe because his approach, however odd it might have seemed, helped block the destructive effect of continued sympathetic firing, and stimulated his healing parasympathetic nerves into action.

Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard, a cardiologist by training, has written best selling books such as “The Relaxation Response” that discuss in some detail the beneficial effects of techniques such as meditation.

Dr. Elmer Green, now retired, for years studied the effects of the mind on the body at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, one of the pre-eminent psychiatric facilities in the world. Dr. Green, a physicist by training, like Dr. Benson, documented the healthy effects of positive thoughts and relaxation techniques. Dr. Green investigated in his very conventional laboratory setting gurus from the Himalayas, and American Indian shamans, who through the power of their own thoughts could on command regulate pulse, blood pressure, and other physiological functions for decades thought beyond conscious control. Green even has movies of some of these mystics who from a distance, with their own mind power, could change the direction of a compass at his command! Spooky, but all carefully documented in a conventional medical research laboratory.

So, in times of stress and anxiety, seek a calm state of mind. Meditate, pray and think positive thoughts to neurochemically block your sympathetic system from firing, and instead stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system into action and relief.

By Nicholas Gonzalez M.D.