Stress. We would all be hard pressed (pun intended) to find someone who hasn’t had to deal with a stressful situation. And we’ve all heard from researchers and clinicians that the flight-or-flight response commonly attributed to stress affects health. How? It turns off the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms, which help maintain heart health, fight cancer and infection, and hold off symptoms of aging. While poor diet, inactivity, bad habits, and sleep deprivation are all linked to poor health, the thoughts you entertain when you are stressed are just as disease-promoting.
Your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings are under your control. Calm thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that are expectant of good outcomes can lead to effective stress responses. You have the power to control your thoughts, returning the body to the health-inducing state that activates natural self-repair.
Today stress is considered to be at epidemic levels. But blaming increasingly hectic lives and ever-lengthening to-do lists won’t relieve the stress and its effects. Effective stress reduction can be achieved by guiding thought in the direction of peace and stillness. Someone experiencing stress might think, “If I could be calm, I wouldn’t be stressed!” But actively taking hold of thought during stressful situations will promote health and combat stress.
Once, an arson fire was set in the small coastal city where I live. The fire extended from eight miles inland to the edge of the ocean, burning homes in my neighborhood at the rate of about one house every 15 seconds. The stress of evacuation and uncertainty was almost overwhelming. My wife and I decided to challenge the extreme stress and, instead, look to God for calmer, intelligent thoughts. We went to an all-night McDonalds and prayed. When morning came we saw on TV our house standing untouched in the midst of devastation, just as our thought remained untouched by stress as we prayed through the night.
A well-known hymn helps with this idea of taking control of thought: “Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, O still small voice of calm…Take from us now the strain and stress…”
Many health researchers have realized the power of thought in health. Opening up thought to a divine power redirects the power of thought spiritually, more than just having good thoughts. While present-day medical practitioner Lissa Rankin describes this divine influence as an inner light, 19th-century spiritual health researcher Mary Baker Eddy described this calm as the effect of the spiritual laws of God.
Through their research and work, they have each been able to share what they found about health and healing. Rankin describes her “Whole Health Medicine” regimen in Mind Over Medicine, encouraging the health care industry to empower patients to heal themselves. Eddy wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which has for over 100 years enabled people to heal themselves and others. This book includes many first-hand accounts by people who overcame a wide variety of stressful problems through thought transformations.
We must find a way to combat stress, the underlying factor in many diseases. As both Eddy and Rankin discovered, health begins in thought. And we can all learn to find that peace in thought that reduces, even overcomes, stress.
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