Updated: Nov 25, 2020
"We are our own biggest source of stress because of what we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the situation we find ourselves in," (Rubenstein 4).
I always like to think life shows me signs to guide my way. This semester I was supposed to be taking an intro Spanish class on ground when I realized I signed up for intensive Spanish II (how? I don't know) and needed to find a new class quick. My advisor recommended a class called Stress Management because of the great comments from students and how the teacher is the bomb. I decided why the hell not and I can say now, I AM SO THANKFUL I SIGNED UP FOR THE WRONG SPANISH CLASS.
We used a book called The Stress Management Handbook by Lori. A. Leyden-Rubenstein Ph.d. I skipped along and decided to read the whole book and KNEW I had to write a book review. It's so much more important than just the book or the class. These kinds of tools for stress, mental health, and health in general should be a required course for EVERY university.
There was a point in my life where I can say I hit rock bottom. I had 5-8 panic attacks weekly and couldn't leave my own house for months. I was losing weight like crazy, my acid reflex burned whenever I ate or drank, I had constant nausea, my heart rate regularly shot up with palpitations, the list can go on and on. I'd get nasty rashes on my face or breakouts, migraines for WEEKS, and absolutely no energy to do anything. I had irregular periods, trouble breathing, and I swear I thought I developed asthma.
During that time I was afraid. I was so scared that I had a serious illness like cancer or a disease unknown to man when in reality, it was my mental health. I visited doctors and psychiatrists and realized I was in a huge episode of anxiety, depression, and panic.
Fast forward in time and I got a lot better. It wasn't easy but I never understood how something like anxiety could make me that sick. How could intangible thoughts cause real life illnesses and problems? I studied this class and it opened doors to a whole new world of explanations and reasonings.
Most doctors understand the mind/body/spirit approach to healing but don't use it as a form of treatment because that's not what they are taught. Majority are taught to provide comfort with drugs but the problem with drugs are they might balance out the chemicals but do not change the way you think. There is no drug that will teach you how to deal with things, when a good chunk just numbs you to properly healing.
This book displays a different perspective in terms of the word stress. An event itself is NOT stressful, what is stressful is how you then perceive that event.
My professor gave a good example about this: Imagine two scenarios of two different people losing an arm. One boy was driving to a party, got into a horrible accident and had to amputate his arm. He thinks, "my life is ruined, I will never be the same, I hate my life, poor me." But take another boy, in a war zone in Syria who loses his arm to the bombing of his village. He thinks, "thank God for another chance at life, that I spend yet another day on this Earth breathing. I lost my arm but not my life," and that right there is a perfect explanation on HOW PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING.
You always have a choice. Whether it's a job you hate or a toxic relationship causing you stress, you have the power to make THE choice. "The experience of stress can block us from considering all our options," (Rubenstein 5). When we don't have options, we begin to feel trapped, HENCE panic attacks or anxiety. When we feel that we don't have control over our lives, that's where we become hopeless.
The most interesting part of the book was the scientific data behind just how much stress can make you PHYSICALLY sick. It was published in 1999; now there's even more scientific data supporting these claims. (All facts below from The Stress Management Handbook)
-"80% to 90% of all illness is stress-related."
-"Stress is linked to the 6 leading causes of death; heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide." -"Prozac was the first psychiatric drug to reach $2 billion in sales in 1995."
-"80% of Prozac prescriptions are written by general physicians who lack psychiatrist training."
-"Drugs like Prozac, Xanax, and others are approved by the FDA based on test results with as few as 100 subjects taking the drug for as little as four weeks."
Basically nationwide we are facing an overwhelming increasing population not knowing how to deal with stress, which leads to serious illnesses and drug companies profiting from it like crazy. Anyone can go to their general doctors now, tell them they've been feeling overly anxious and BOOM, you get a prescription for Xanax and we wonder why there is a huge drug addiction problem in the USA.
And no one talks about this. No one talks about all the natural and healthy ways to start thinking. Research shows that our thoughts have DIRECT effects on our bodily systems. If we are in a constant state of panic and stress, our fight-or-flight system kicks in. Our body starts shutting down things like our digestive track because it's focusing on bettering our senses like vision and hearing so we can survive this "threat."
That's a big reason why people with bad anxiety have digestive and stomach problems. When our body is constantly in that anxious state, our organs are suffering from our body being in that survival mode and from the cortisol/hormone levels rising. Our body can't focus on our immune systems because day in and day out, it's using everything to help us prepare for this "threat," when in reality the threat is anxiety and stressful thoughts. When stress suppresses the immune system, YOU GET SICK, nonstop. Bodily systems shut down one after another because of exhaustion and that is the sad loop of dooming stress.
The good part is this book shows just how to heal. Studies show meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are the difference between life or death. I used to think "pshh, okay I'm not doing that weird hippie stuff," but now it's essential to my days. Learning how to control your focus and breathing can stop panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and your stress levels.
If you learn how to be in the moment, half of your stress is gone. When we get into over-thinking, it's because we are in the past or the future, NEVER the present. If you learn how to live in the moment, take things day by day, you'll see how much less stress you are faced with.
Self-efficiency is KEY to understanding yourself. If you believe you are self-efficient, meaning you have the power to do things, make a change, make a choice, you will NEVER again feel trapped. With this, it's important to surround yourself with supporting people. Studies show group therapy or group healing makes things WAY easier. Laughter is the best medicine, with data showing how the chemicals laughing produces actually lowers our stress levels. Gratitude helps us not wallow with what we don't have, and instead what we DO have. Listening to your inner voice or your gut feeling is the ultimate validation. We look to ourselves for help, support and comfort, not others and this teaches us to fully believe within ourselves.
I could go on and on but I recommend this book 10000% for every person alive. And it's not just hippie mombo-jumbo. I was so skeptical of this kind of stuff 3 years ago. Once I experienced the traumatizing effects of stress left unchecked, then I walked into this world of holistic healing. But you shouldn't wait until you get sick to get better or at least arm yourself with this knowledge.
It's a scholarly yet an easy read with data and exercises to change your view. You don't have to have a PHD in psychology to understand. I now look at my mental health as a thing I can continuously change and not something I'm doomed to live with forever. I've learned to focus on what I can change and not worrying about what I can't, while still being the best version of myself.
Thanks for reading everyone! I appreciate each and everyone of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read what I have to say. I pray my words can spark a thought, a lost hope, or a will to reach for the stars inside of you.
I'll link my book insta page which has short reviews, cute quotes, and giveaways.