by Pamina Mullins
Why, in a world full of potential stress triggers, when exposed to identical
stressors, do some people seem to be immune, while others fall over like flies?
While researching material for my books, I have ploughed through mountains of
scholarly articles, case histories, experiments, research and conclusions about
why people succumb to stress - with the statistics to back them up.
But there seems to be very little research allocated to success stories.
Why is there such an emphasis on the problem? Why aren’t we spending equal
or greater amounts of time and resources on studying the exceptions to the
rule; people who live in a high stress environment or experience periods of
incredible pressure, without succumbing to the negative effects of stress? In
fact many emerge fitter and feistier than before. What do these people do
differently? This is what I wanted to know.
And these are some common themes I found.
Stress-less people know that the thoughts they think, the words they speak, the
food they eat, the books they read, the movies they watch, the games they play,
the expectations they have, the people they hang out with, their daily habits--
and most of all their dominant feelings, shape their lives.
The exercise habit
It seems that some people would rather eat rat poison than exercise.
Extraordinary I know, but these are some common excuses I hear:
I hate exercise. More than you love being healthy and relaxed you mean? What
does this say about the relationship you have with your body? If you haven’t
tried every form of exercise there is and hated every one, this is untrue.
I have family commitments. And do these include being a role model for how to
be healthy - or not? Do these family commitments include the risk of early
degeneration and death? And what is preventing family exercise?
I don’t have time. And do you have time to be stressed and ill? What is
stopping you re-arranging your priorities, or combining exercise with work or
I can’t afford it. Do you have any idea how many types of free exercise there are?
Have you researched the potential cost of not exercising?
Exercise is a powerful act of self love; a prayer of appreciation; an absolute non
negotiable for building immunity to stress.
The water habit
The African baobab tree, because its habitat is so arid and dry, has a unique
ability to store large volumes of water. We do not! The human body is
composed of around 85% water. This provides structural support for our
billions of cellular citizens. It supports complex biochemical reactions and is
the major component of our blood and other body fluids.
Like the canals in Venice, our internal transport system is waterborne.
It is this water supply that distributes what we ingest throughout our bodies. It
is water that flushes toxic waste from every part of this miraculous ecosystem,
preventing us from turning into toxic swamps. As long as enough water and
oxygen are available, everything works smoothly.
Yet there are staggering numbers of people on our planet who rarely or
never drink water.
The late F. Batmanghelidj, MD, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water,
spent years researching the profound benefits water has on the physiological
functions of the body – and the lethal impact of dehydration. From the new
perspective of my twenty two years of clinical and scientific research into molecular physiology
of dehydration, he wrote, I can safely say the 60 million Americans with hypertension, the
110 million with chronic pains, and the 15 million with allergies….all waited to get thirsty.
The sleep habit
Most of us sleep significantly less than we did fifty years ago. Many people
think sleep is a waste of time. Research is ongoing and although we may not yet
know exactly what sleep does, we do know that lack of it has multiple negative
It hasn’t been used as a torture tool throughout history for no reason.
According to various surveys, sleep deprivation among children may have a
profound impact on ADHD symptoms. When adults are tired they usually
become sluggish. When children are tired they tend to overcompensate and
go into overdrive. This is why sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with
ADHD in children. Children (and adults) may also be inattentive, impulsive,
moody, emotionally explosive, or aggressive as a result of sleep deprivation.
Insufficient sleep and stress go hand in hand.
The eating habit
Unsatisfied emotional hunger often results in an over-dependence on nurturing
from food. Being a product of Africa, where the specter of starvation often
stalks, it’s a bit of a stretch for me to understand the scourge of obesity that is
Half the world is dying from need. The other half is dying from greed.
And greed is just another form of need. Then in the midst of greed, people are
dying from self inflicted need (anorexia or bulimia.) Yes, I’m confused too!
The weight of an obese body is only partly due to an imbalance between food
and exercise. What about the weight of despair, shame, loneliness, resentment,
and lack of self love? Obese bodies are carrying burdens they were not
designed to carry - and seeking solace from an ineffective source.
Imagine having a twenty, thirty or fifty year backlog of unresolved issues in
storage; stuffed into the warehouse that is your body. Of course your body
has to stretch to accommodate them. So it has to keep expanding in order to
contain this mountain of unresolved stuff.
Our bodies were designed to process the experiences of life—not store
them in dispatch!
Enlist professional help and have a spring clean, just as you would in your
home; get rid of anything you don’t use on a daily basis and is taking up
valuable mental real estate. Our most compelling desire is not for food. Our
most compelling desire is for love, respect and acceptance.
A good therapist can help to disentangle physical hunger from emotional
hunger and when emotional hunger is satisfied, physical hunger is easy to
satisfy in a healthy, balanced, enjoyable way.
The mental cleanliness habit
When your vehicle gets dirty, you take it to the car wash. When your clothes get
grubby you put them into a washing machine. What then do you do with your
mind and emotions when they get mucky?
The amygdala, a part of our second brain is our memory museum.
Memories attached to strong emotions (whether intensely pleasurable or
intensely painful) are more likely to be stored in here.
When the amygdala registers impressions emailed to it by our sense of smell,
taste, sight, touch or hearing, it processes it by ‘speed dialing’ previously stored
information to find a match. This is a valuable time saving function. But it can
be problematical because people, situations and events that are even indirectly
related to this memory, can trigger an overreaction.
Say for instance, you were involved in a tragic car accident on a mountain
road in snowy conditions, the stored memories might trigger an instant fear of
similar smells, sights, sounds or sensations. If you were humiliated, bullied or
abused by a muscle bound man with red hair and an Irish accent your speed
dial function might trigger an instant dislike or fear of anyone answering even
part of that description.
Our prejudices, fears and stress triggers are often based on these false
The oxygen habit
Dr. Otto Warburg, a two-time Nobel Prize winner reveals that the cause of
most disease is lack of sufficient oxygen in the body. Oxygen deficiency fosters
the build-up of disease, which, over a period of time overwhelms the body's
Most strains of harmful bacteria, as well as cancer cells are anaerobic
and cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.
Under ideal circumstances, our atmosphere contains about 20% oxygen,
although it has recently been reported that in many of our more polluted cities,
levels have dropped to around 10%. It's obvious that our oxygen needs are not
being met. Several of the most common ailments now affecting our population
especially in the polluted metropolitan areas are directly related to oxygen
starvation. It’s hard to be de-stressed and oxygen starved at the same time.
The wellness habit
I’m wondering whether the world of medicine and therapy is running out of
diagnosis labels, and manufacturing illnesses. For every conceivable feeling,
emotion, thought, or physical characteristic they seem to create a diagnosis, an
appropriately official label—and of course medication to manage it.
I guess disease mongering is pretty lucrative.
So that psychopathic bully in the playground is just a poor misunderstood boy
suffering from Defensive Reaction Syndrome. And that habitually obnoxious
colleague you work with? Well, you mustn’t make him feel marginalized; he’s
just suffering from a Social Personality Challenge. The employee you’re about
to dismiss because she’s so lazy she makes a slug look hyperactive—well, she’s
just suffering from Delayed Motivation Syndrome.
Come to think of it, I would undoubtedly be a candidate for a diagnosis.
I’m terminally happy and unnaturally solution oriented. I take abnormal
responsibility for the quality of my life at every level, I laugh far too much, I’m
too damn healthy, my weight hasn’t varied in thirty five years, I lavish my loved
ones with too much affection and greet each day with excessive anticipation!
There must be a label for this condition.
This emphasis on illness instead of wellness has encouraged many
people to develop an illness dependency.
At some point in their past it received positive feedback and rewards. It proved
an effective way to get attention and feel nurtured. It met their needs, and so
it stuck. We’re all attention seekers by nature. So if we’re not getting attention
and appreciation through constructive strategies we’ll use whatever works.
Entire cultures have evolved that reward illness and penalize wellness. I don’t
know about you, but when I’m ill, I’m definitely stressed.
The love habit
If you were given a multi million dollar mansion at birth – would you allow
it to deteriorate into a seedy, unsanitary squat, with a leaky roof, cracked and
peeling walls tattooed with graffiti, and a blocked sewerage system?
So why do we allow the opinions, trends, expectations, benchmarks and
criticisms our environments bombard us with, to devalue this truly miraculous
organism with which we live so intimately twenty four hours a day?
When we love ourselves, and are loved by others, a cocktail of healing
chemicals are released, which in turn triggers the release of anti-stress and anti-
aging hormones. These speed cellular repair.
Only when we deviate from our natural biological balance, does our
1. Make their health a priority – especially when under pressure
2. Don’t warehouse mental or emotional ‘weight’ and keep their internal
3. Drink plenty of clean water
4. Breathe clean air
5. Exercise regularly
6. Don’t deprive themselves of sleep
7. Know the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger
8. Ask for and accept help when they need it
9. Are not dependent on other people’s approval – they already have their
10.Are not slaves to societal trends
11.Instinctively look beyond life’s challenges for messages and solutions
12.Can detach when necessary and have good emotional management skills
13.Focus on wellness and balance – not illness and imbalance
14.Treat their minds, bodies and emotions with respect – especially when
15.Consciously choose the words they speak
16.Consciously choose the fuel they feed themselves
17.Know that what they put in they get out
18. Surround themselves with supportive, uplifting people
19.Deliberately adopt productive daily habits
20.Feel joyful and positive most of the time
21.Love themselves – without reservation