Over the past 8 years, since 9/11 actually, I have noticed a marked increase in clients with hypothalamic dysfunction, indicating to me a global increase in chronic stress of epidemic proportion, especially in post 9/11 America where terrorism continues to threaten our lives, our liberty, and our pursuit of happiness. Little wonder our immune systems, shut down by a fermenting culture of fear, are failing us.
I will speak to the cause of this dysfunction, as I see it, and the conditions that occasion it before continuing sharing excerpts from my book, SACRED ANATOMY.
(Before proceeding, I would direct you to read, or review, my previous post for an understanding of the normal function of the hypothalamus.)
Chronic Stress is simply prolonged and unresolved stress. Let me explain this from a physiological as well as a practical perspective and understanding of the way things work in our bodies.
I will start with a simple example of chronic stress. Let’s say, just for entertainment, that you have wandered into a pasture and, when you look up, you notice that a big, black bull is charging at you from a distance, which gives you plenty of time to run and get out of harm’s way. Only you, for some strange reason, freeze on the spot and can’t seem to get your legs moving. This is a classic example of the residual effects of chronic stress. Your fight or flight stress response is in a state of incoherence and dysfunction.
Now let’s examine how this incoherence and dysfunction come about. As we saw in my previous post, every function in your body depends on the hypothalamus and its ability to receive information from your environment and convey that information to your body — as well as to YOU — and no, you are not your body but the One who lives in and through it. Every cell also needs adrenal hormones (cortisone, adrenaline and noradrenalin) in order to perform its duties in a timely and effective manner. (See pictures below)
Now, our bodies obey our every command. they respond to every thought entertained and imbued with spirit and feeling — feelings such as love, compassion and gratitude, as well as those of fear, resentment and worry — in other words, thoughts that WE give credence and energy to. Not the many and sundry thoughts that our net-like minds snare in the stream of thoughts passing through them from out of the mass consciousness we share with everyone else; only the ones that I pay attention to as being worthy of my time and energy to entertain, and perhaps do something more overt with.
THE CAPTAIN OF YOUR SOUL
The factual point I am making here is that YOU are responsible for your body’s every function — yes, even its physiological functions, which cease the moment you vacate your body in death. As the poet William Ernest Henley put it when he penned INVICTUS,
“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
(Note: The word “strait” means “exact” and not straight as the shortest distance between two points. We find this word used in the scriptural passage: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7:14). In other words, exact, precise, with no deviation, no compromise. That’s the integrity inherent in Life’s way. This saying of Jesus comes just after he articulates the ‘Golden Rule” to do unto others “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you.”)
THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE STRESS REFLEX
Now back to my physiology lesson. As soon as you infuse a thought with fear, for example, your fight or flight reflex kicks in as the hypothalamus sends hormonal messages to your adrenal glands to produce and secrete adrenaline into the blood stream in order to empower your muscles to engage the environmental stress factor — real or imagined matters not. If you act on the impulse to respond to the stress and DO something to resolve it, one way or another, then you will use up the adrenaline secreted for that event.
On the other hand, if you do NOT actively respond to the urge to fight back and dispose of the stress factor, or take flight from it — the nemesis that stands in the way of your attainment of peace and security, or some more deeply threatened value in your life, such as the freedom to be yourself and respected in a dominated or abusive relationship — then the adrenaline stays circulating in your blood stream stimulating body cells into frantic and destructive activities, often to the point of exhaustion and chronic disease. Prolonged and mishandled stress is at the energetic root of all chronic diseases, most common of which is chronic fatigue.
But more detrimental to health and homeostasis is the frustration and consequent shut-down of the hypothalamus due to the abundance of adrenaline in the body tissues, indicating that more is not needed to face the many other stresses that arises in life — along with continued failure to heed its messages and do something about the stress. Eventually, the adrenal glands themselves shut down due to the lack of clear and coherent directives from the hypothalamus. You can’t even sleep at night for the amount of mental activity going on due to the abundance of cortisol in your brain just running thoughts and worries. You wake up in the morning as tired as or more tired than you were before you went to bed. Chronic stress has literally taken away your health, as well as your life.
You need a vacation! So you take one. But, you know, you take your fears and worries with you on vacation. Without understanding why or how, you may find yourself frozen in place and unable to act quickly in an emergency, such as a vehicle crossing over the median of the highway and heading in your direction. Or a child in distress in the swimming pool. The consequences of your inaction are potentially tragic and irreversible. You’ve got to “wake up and smell the roses,” as the saying goes. You’ve got to come fully into the present moment.
Physical exercise, especially walking, helps use up the adrenaline, as well as blood sugar, freeing up cellular receptor cites to receive more adrenaline and sugar-bearing insulin, which, if it remains too long in your circulatory system, will do damage to the arteries and trigger the production of cholesterol in the liver for damage control. Walking also gives you a chance to process your thoughts and feelings and raise your perspective to see things as they actually are from a higher point of observation. We can only make changes in ourselves and in our worlds as we see and accept things exactly as they are. It’s the only workable starting point.
As for the hypothalamus, it needs to be reset to present-time awareness. That requires specific nutrients to support the physiology, along with restful sleep. It also requires spiritual practice of some kind, such as yoga and meditation, along with deep breathing and mindfulness. Energy work, such as Reiki to balance the Chakras, and Attunement to balance the endocrine system with the Chakra centers, especially when facilitated by intentional sound healing, offers potent and immediate return to inner peace and harmony, as well as disengagement of the fight or flight reflex, allowing time and space for the hypothalamus to reset to present-time awareness. We learned how the pleasure-induced neurohormone oxytocin disengages the fight or flight reflex in the previous post. A little playtime, even a tasty treat, can do a lot for down-regulating stress. All things in moderation, of course. Just be kind to yourself.
There is a nutritional protocol available to help in resetting the hypothalamus and endocrine system, which I’ve used in my service for many years with favorable, although limited, results. Limited in that honest internal work is needed as well in order to start facing the stresses in life with acceptance and resolve, even opening to embrace them as opportunities to grow spiritually. Developing a sense of right expectancy helps us to be patient with Life’s creative process so as not to spoil the perfect outcome. Remember, it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom of Heaven right here on earth.
The instruction “In all things give thanks” is a wise and worthy guide to success in this area of handling stress creatively by redirecting aroused reactive energy. One simply needs to remember it in the heat of the moment when overbearing circumstances tend to trigger the fight or flight reflex in your hypothalamus. Giving thanks may even interrupt the urge to react and take the negative charge out of your feelings. Love does have a way of dispelling fear and anxiety, as does patience and forgiveness, the gifts of Spirit.
With so much release of wisdom and council, the coming week will surely hold many opportunities and challenges for walking my talk. And I say: “Bring it on!” These past few weeks have been very stressful. With the grace and mercy of Divine Providence, we have emerged victorious and blessed. After all, life without stress is impossible. Pressure is essential to growth in all phases of our development. In the squeeze of circumstance, look up and you’ll go up. Looking down will only bring you down further. So, look up!
Your comments are always welcome. If you would like to address any questions or concerns with me by email, please feel free to do so. I will return to the theme of this blog series, Sacred Anatomy, in my next post. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.