Stress less, live longer

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Qualified local hypnotherapist Karen Martin reveals the inflammatory effects of stress and anxiety, and suggests that by adopting a more positive, healthier mindset this can help create better habits and a more relaxed you…


The biochemistry of stress and anxiety is inflammatory, and inflammatory diseases in their many and varied forms tend to kill many of us in the end. This is scientifically proven and well-documented. The NHS is stretched to its capacity treating preventable inflammatory symptoms and the personal cost of the problems that cause them is high in terms of quality and expectancy of life.

It is widely understood that the body keeps the score when the mind is overwhelmed with problems it wasn’t designed to solve. And yet, the maintenance of good mental health is often regarded as secondary to medicating physical illnesses.

While many of us are aware that anxiety and stress can lead to a range of issues like depression and burnout, it is less well-known that these emotions can also have a significant impact on our physical well-being.


Chemical Crisis

Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived threat which triggers the brain to release a range of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. This biological response is hardwired to deal with primaeval conditions which bear no relationship to the pressures of our lives today.

The human body is ingeniously designed to respond to the anticipation of deprivation which would have been a common fear of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Cortisol stimulates a craving for high-calorie food and enables the body to produce and retain fat stores to minimise the risk of future starvation. Brilliant if you’re having to forage for food every day. Not so good when surrounded by an unlimited abundance of fattening food and afflicted by chronic stress. Many of us are just not aware of how much stress we’re under because it’s a normal state of existence.

If you think of cortisol as being triggered by a state of amber alert caused by normal day-to-day stresses, adrenaline is a red alert to warn us to react to an imminent predator attack. It accelerates bodily functions to create a surge of energy and activate the flight or fight response.


Emotional Flare-Ups

There are multiple physically inflammatory symptoms of riding the high-speed roller coaster of life. Many of these are acknowledged in the way we use language to describe emotions. If something is doing your head in or is a pain in the neck, you’re talking through gritted teeth or finding it hard to swallow or think straight, these are descriptions of the inflammatory effect of certain emotions on specific body parts. If you’re sick to the stomach, kicked in the guts, galled, liverish or sh** scared, that’s because the digestive tract is often described as the ‘second brain’.


Here’s a rundown of some typical inflammatory responses to the biochemistry of stress and anxiety:

  • Neurology: headaches, migraine, brain fog, trouble concentrating, poor memory.
  • Digestion: dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, acid reflux, nausea and bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, autoimmune conditions like Crohns Disease
  • Body detoxification: waste and toxins cause disease and infection when the liver, kidneys, gallbladder and lymphatic system become inflamed and can’t process them. Symptoms include swelling, fluid retention and skin rashes
  • Blood sugar: When the liver and pancreas become inflamed, unstable blood sugar and excess insulin can lead to diabetes
  • Endocrine: the functioning of the thyroid, adrenal glands, reproductive system, skin and hair health can be disrupted by unstable hormones
  • Muscles and bones: joint and muscle aches and pains, fatigue and autoimmune conditions like fibromyalgia affect mobility and strength
  • Immune system: causes autoimmune diseases like arthritis, lupus and psoriasis by overreacting to inflammation


Life-threatening illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have been proven to be aggravated if not caused by anxiety. The Alzheimer’s Society reports on research showing that stress appears to have a direct impact on some of the mechanisms underlying dementia.


Multidisciplinary Solutions

Exercise and healthy eating help minimise the risks and enable the immune system to function more efficiently to reduce inflammation. A life of excessive consumption and lack of self-care is generally shorter than that of someone with a balanced harmonious lifestyle.

Hypnotherapy, mindfulness and meditation, which effectively achieve the same neurological state of reduced brain wave frequency by slightly different means, also help cut off the inflammatory hormones at the pass. These simple methods require no prescription and can be easily practised as a preventative means to safeguard against stress-induced diseases.

The mind-body connection is a two-way street. A sick body causes anxiety, and anxiety can make a body sick. Maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body requires a multidisciplinary approach to well-being and that starts with a healthy mindset to maintain healthy habits and behaviours.  Just think of the brain as the operating system or machine code that runs every aspect of human function. It has superpowers we barely understand and have yet to fully make use of.

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