Times are tough, money is tight, uncertainty reigns and here’s the kicker. Things can get worse. Not because the economy tanks, or the 401K seems to be circling the drain, or we won’t see the inside of a shopping mall until housing prices level out. When the news is bad, what makes things worse is allowing the world around us to dominate the world within us. When our sense of well-being goes up and down with the Dow Jones. We may not have control over the success of the latest stimulus package or the fate of our brothers and sisters in the military facing multiple deployments, but we do have choices about how to think about these and any other sources of psychological stress. This is important not only because stress-resilient thinking and practices energize and strengthen us to successfully deal with out struggles, but because attitudes and mental habits create real-time, long-term changes in our physical health.
“Stress is the major predictor of illness because it stimulates the production of cortisol and epinephrine from osf my chart the adrenal glands,” states Beth Moran, ARNP, Nurse Practitioner and author of Intuitive Healing: A Woman’s Guide To Finding The Healer Within (currently under revision). Both cortisol and adrenaline are life-saving in the short bursts of intensity for which nature installed them. Cortisol triggers the “fight-or-flight” survival response when we sense a physical threat. It boosts muscle strength, heightens perceptions and memory, and lowers sensitivity to pain, while adrenaline keeps us hyper aware and alert as we engage in whatever response is necessary to get away from danger. But they must be followed by the body’s natural relaxation response once the danger has passed because what makes us stronger and better survivors also exacts a price. Prolonged exposure to this same heady rush of brain chemicals has serious health effects such as significantly lowered immunity, a heightened inflammatory response, slower wound healing, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, and blood sugar imbalances.
And here’s the thing. Our brains and bodies experience a psychological threat as a physical one, with the same rush of cortisol and adrenaline. That is how the angry thoughts that never get resolved, the oppressive relationship that saps self-confidence, relentless self-criticism, fearful projections about the future or any other persistent negative attitudes playing over and over in our consciousness have a direct effect on our health.
In her book, her teaching and her practice – Integrated Wellness in East Hampton – Beth Moran encourages forging a connection with the inner voice we all possess that knows what we need to change about our thinking or our lives, and finding the strength and resources to respond. “When I had a melanoma,” she reveals, “I was very frightened. But my inner voice, my intuition, told me that I needed to change my life and leave my marriage or I would die. Now that I understand psychoneuroimmunology – the science behind the mind/body connection – I see that I was ‘jumping out of my skin.’ I knew it was a spiritual awakening to get me to look at my life.”
A pioneer in the field of holistic health and co-founder of the Guild of Holistic Practitioners, Beth practices and teaches nation-wide from a philosophy that views a person’s entire life and being as related to one’s health.
“I used to work for a cancer specialist who treated patients with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation,” she relates. “Although he was able to cure some, I became interested in the bigger picture of why some people got sick and some got better and began to read books on nutrition and psychology to understand the relationship to illness and wellness. From that I went to school at the Margaret Sanger center to study Holistic Women’s health care, and for the past 25 years have continued to study natural medicine. My practice emphasizes women taking responsibility for themselves after receiving a lot of information. I endeavor to empower women to make decisions based on facts and their own inner truth and philosophy.” She works extensively with BioIdentical Hormones, Thyroid imbalance, Adrenal fatigue and the mind/body relationship, combining appropriate medical treatment, testing and tools with information and a range of resources relevant to an individual’s needs.