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Five Deadly Myths About Stress

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By Morton C. Orman, M.D., Author of THE 14 DAY STRESS CURE

Each year, millions of Americans die of stress-related illnesses. Heart disease, strokes, and even some forms of cancer may be caused by stress in certain individuals. If we include the considerable damage done by smoking, overeating, alcohol, and drugs--all commonly used to cope with stress--we can see that we are in the midst of a major epidemic with serious, often fatal, consequences.

Many of these deaths could be averted. The number-one cause of stress today is not overcrowding, gridlock, stressful work conditions, or the economy--it is MISINFORMATION. We have many myths and misconceptions about stress that are widespread in our society. Unfortunately, these myths and misconceptions are shared by most stress experts and health professionals as well.

Thus, a major problem we all face today is that much of what we've been taught about stress isn't really true!

The purpose of this article is two-fold: 1) to inform you of five key myths that may be keeping you from coping with stress more effectively; and 2) to make you aware of an important new book, The 14 Day Stress Cure (Breakthru Publishing, Houston, TX), which explains these myths in more detail, including how to defend yourself from them and how to get rid of stress without using drugs, relaxation exercises, or other time-consuming stress management techniques.

WARNING: Before changing or abandoning any stress-reducing practice, discuss your plans with a physician, therapist, or other health care provider. Hopefully, the information contained in this article will cause you to question some of the coping strategies you are presently using. But if you abandon these strategies prematurely, that is before you have mastered ones of equal or greater value, you could cause yourself harm.

MYTH #1: Stress is inevitable--there's little we can do to prevent or eliminate it.

FACT: Stress is not an inevitable part of life. Millions of people lead relatively stress-free lives. When exposed to identical situations, some people experience high degrees of stress while others experience little or none. More importantly, many people have successfully changed themselves from "high-stress" to "low- stress" individuals.

How do some people accomplish this feat? Clearly, they weren't born this way, or they wouldn't have become stressed in the first place. Was it luck, the amount of schooling they received, or a sudden religious conversion?

While religious conversions do take place, the majority of people who change themselves from high-stress to low-stress individuals do so by acquiring a new type of KNOWLEDGE. Not the type of knowledge they learned in school, but knowledge that allows them to correct many of the myths and misconceptions other people believe.

As Richard Ecker points out in his 1985 book The Stress Myth: "We like to believe that stress is inevitable--that life is so complex these days, that we're being dragged along by a runaway world which offers us less and less that we can depend on. But this belief is nothing but a myth, a myth that has done more to perpetuate stress in our society than any other single factor."

Ecker goes on to say, "Ironically, the main proponents of this myth are the very same ones who claim to be teaching people how to deal with stress!"

What Ecker says is unfortunately true. Most of what we've been taught about stress--including what it is, what causes it to occur, and how we should cope with it--is based upon inaccurate, out-dated theories that are no longer accepted by twentieth-century thinkers.

The good news is that once you learn to recognize these myths, and once you correctly understand what stress is and what really causes it to occur, you can prevent or eliminate much of the stress you ordinarily experience.

MYTH #2: Stress is something we can cope with or deal with directly.

FACT: Stress is not something you, I, or anyone else can cope with directly. Contrary to popular belief, stress is not some "thing" that exists or afflicts us like a disease.

"Stress" is merely a word that we use to stand for hundreds of specific problems and conflicts we experience from time to time.

Some of these problems exist outside our bodies, such as relationship conflicts, work-related pressures, and other external obligations or demands. Others occur inside our bodies, such as feeling tense, angry, worried, or depressed.

Thus, whenever we say we are "suffering from stress," what we really mean is WE ARE HAVING PROBLEMS OR CONFLICTS THAT ARE PAINFUL OR TROUBLING TO US.

This means we have all been trained to think about stress incorrectly. Instead of asking "what can I do to cope with my stress?" you should be asking yourself "what specific problems or conflicts are troubling me, and how can I deal with each of these problems effectively?" The importance of this change will be discussed in a moment.

MYTH #3: Some degree of stress is good or healthy for us.

FACT: There is no such thing as "good" or "healthy" stress. Also, there is no truth to the rumor that some degree of stress is necessary for us to be happy, successful, or maximally productive in our jobs.

These myths arise from failing to appreciate that stress is just a word.

While many experiences in life can excite us, such as movies, plays, and athletic events, these experiences have nothing at all to do with stress (i.e. problems and conflicts that are painful or troubling to us). Confusion about this, however, causes many people to incorrectly assume that a certain amount of fear, anger, frustration, or other negative emotions is actually "good" or "healthy" for them.

THIS WIDESPREAD ASSUMPTION NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED! Instead of encouraging people to believe in this myth, we should be teaching our children that much of the pain and suffering people endure in the name of "good stress" is unnecessary. The truth is most of this stress could be eliminated without any adverse effects on our health, happiness, or productivity.

MYTH #4: The best way to deal with stress is to manage it--i.e. make it go away with physical exercise, meditation, biofeedback, or other relaxation techniques.

FACT: The most damaging belief we have today is that the best way to deal with our stress is to manage it. While stress management experts are quick to point out the positive benefits of exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques, few will inform you of the negative side to these same coping strategies.

Most people have already discovered, however, that stress management techniques are often ineffective. They are very poor strategies for dealing with certain types of problems, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of your job. They are also very time-consuming, requiring discipline and will power that many people lack. In addition, their benefits are short-lasting, necessitating daily or in some cases multiple usage each day.

But the biggest drawback to managing stress is that it only deals with the symptoms of our problems. It rarely helps us to clarify or deal with the underlying causes of our difficulties. This means that managing stress--even when we do it well--CAN CAUSE MANY OF OUR PROBLEMS TO PERSIST OR EVEN GET WORSE! Since we never correct the root causes of our problems, they will continue to occur, over and over again.

Thus, people who think they are doing the right thing by managing their stress may actually be harming themselves in the long run.

This is why you should give up trying to deal with "stress" per se, and focus instead on the specific problems or conflicts that are bothering you (see myth #2). It is also the reason why exercise, dietary changes, and relaxation techniques--while affording us many health-related benefits--are not the best strategies for coping with stress.

The 14 Day Stress Cure (Breakthru Publishing, 1991) explains how virtually anyone can learn to get rid of stress without using drugs, relaxation exercises, or stress management techniques. It also explains a step-by-step method for eliminating stress that is much more natural, effective, and empowering than stress management.

MYTH #5: Our mind plays a role in much of the stress we experience.

FACT: While you probably believe that your mind plays a role in much of the stress you experience, THIS IS ALSO A MYTH! If you've ever wondered "why do I keep feeling bad?" or "why do I act the same way over and over again even though I know better?," you probably believe the answer has something to do with your mind. In addition, if you've ever tried to change any habitual thought, feeling, or behavior pattern, you've probably tried to do so by using some type of mind-control or mental-change technique.

Every day, millions of people attempt to change themselves by using such techniques. Most of the time they fail. The reason they fail is not because they are incapable of making big changes, but because they have been taught to believe in the mind-body myth of human beings. Fortunately, a new way of understanding ourselves--called Biolinguistics--has recently replaced our old, outdated mind-body theories.

Biolinguistics shows that our bodies, not our minds, are responsible for much of the stress we experience. As we grow and develop, certain stress-producing conversations, such as "I'm no good" or "there's nothing I can do about my problems," and stress-producing action patterns, such as "failing to ask for help" or "failing to admit you may be wrong," become programmed into our bodies. Once these patterns become established, THEY ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO CHANGE OR ELIMINATE.

When you understand yourself in this way, and when you know how to pinpoint the specific conversations and action patterns that--in addition to external events--are causing your stress to occur, you can defeat these hidden causes without needing to change or eliminate them. In fact, you can even use Biolinguistics to profit from habitual patterns that may have caused you nothing but pain and suffering in the past.

"LOW-STRESS" INDIVIDUALS EITHER CONSCIOUSLY OR INTUITIVELY UNDERSTAND HOW THEY AND OTHER PEOPLE FUNCTION AS BIOLINGUISTIC ORGANISMS. It is this type of knowledge--not what they were taught about stress in school or by stress management experts--that enables them to change themselves from "high-stress" to "low-stress" individuals.

Unfortunately, most of the advice you've received has reinforced the five deadly myths just discussed. As long as you remain a prisoner of these false beliefs, you will probably find that stress is indeed inevitable. But once you correctly understand what stress is (i.e. a word that stands for specific problems and conflicts in your life) and what causes it to occur (i.e. external events + hidden thought patterns and behavior patterns that become triggered in your body), you will find--as many others have--that you do have the power to end stress as a chronic, recurring problem in your life.

Copyright 1992-2010--M.C.Orman, MD, FLP. All Rights Reserved.

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