Surviving a Deadly Enemy Called Stress

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So who isn't overloaded? And the load takes a million forms: Consider a mother with a baby going grocery shopping - an hour later she can end up with a cranky baby and very few food items.

The Stress Hormone

Doug Kaufmann is host of a leading health show, Know the Cause. He says excess stress causes too much of a hormone.

Click on the video player for more on dealing with stress.

"The adrenal glands that sit by the kidneys make a hormone, a very toxic hormone. And this toxic hormone actually poisons the body. So getting that hormone stabilized is very, very important," he said.

That hormone is cortisol.

Cortisol is designed to balance body systems after stress. But long periods of stress make cortisol toxic. It raises blood pressure and blood sugar while lowering the body's readiness to destroy infections. Over time, all those damage health.

Kaufmann also served as a medic in Vietnam and knows firsthand that stress isn't only dangerous…it can be deadly.

"War veterans are committing suicide at a very, very rapid pace. These were individuals who held this in -- We did see things that a 20-year-old kid should not see," Kaufmann said.

So stress becomes an opponent that must be defeated. Psychiatrist Frank Minirth says a good first step is realizing it's not about us.

"The reason to overcome stress is so we can be more effective for the Lord. If we feel good and we're not overly consumed with anxiety, then we can be more effective for Him," Minirth said.

One way to put that into practice is kindness. That reduces the stress of others and our own.

"You might view this as if you were trying to help someone else that is under stress, but you can also apply it to yourself," Minirth said. "In my training, we were taught to be more stoic and a little bit more passive, so this concept of being aggressively kind was new."

Aggressive kindness can include:

     -Surprise communication: Call or send an E-mail to a friend or relative you haven't spoken to in a long time.

     -Support: Stop, listen, and offer a helping hand or a word of encouragement to someone in a stressful situation.

     -Share: Because stress comes with the good and bad in our lives.

"Big events in our lives probably need to be shared with someone we love - a pastor, a mom, someone at the church, et cetera -- maybe a psychologist or psychiatrist -- but don't internalize them for too long because bad things can happen," Kaufmann said.

What Are You Eating?

And what we take in as far as food and supplements can also make a difference.

"Another little trick I tell people: If it's white, eat less of it and if it's green, eat more of it. So like turnip greens and green beans -- so green more. Then protein -- lean meat and egg whites -- that's fairly healthy for a lot of people," Minirth explained.

While medicines can help some people, the following supplements specifically address stress:

     -Theanine helps the mind be more relaxed and focused.

     -Rhodiola, a Russian herb, helps the entire body to adapt to stress.

     -Phosphatidyl serine, or PS, protects and boosts the physical processes of the brain.

     -Extracts of turmeric -- also known as curcumin -- fight the inflammation from too much cortisol.

Kaufmann said, "I don't have to go to a second party to continue getting this prescription. and I like the idea that I'll know, the way the body is -- the way the good Lord set the body up, I will know in ten days if this is going to work -- and it will be safe."

Speak the Truth

Finally, be careful what we tell others and ourselves.

"'I'm the most horrible person in the world.' Well, I doubt it. I mean you've sinned, we're not saying a positive thing, we're just saying accurate thinking. You've sinned, but Christ can forgive that," Minirth said.

So, replace the lie with the truth. Go to the Bible

For example, First John says, "If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins -- He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done."

And contemplating scripture can actually improve the physical structure of the brain.

Minirth explained, "To some degree, we become what we take in. And we have maybe 200 billion brain cells, so it takes a lot of Scripture memory. But the more you memorize Scripture -- and I'm not just talking about just memorizing -- I'm talking about enjoying it."

Wherever we are on a given day in the stress cycle, our experts say prepare to do battle with stress on all fronts -- physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

*Originally aired on February 6, 2008.

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Gailon Totheroh

Gailon Totheroh

CBN News Science and Medical Reporter

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