Let’s take a moment to review the previous articles. We started out by talking about “cause and effect”. I explained that the cause of every effect is the thought, and the effect is always the feeling, either good or bad. Also it is very important to remember that whatever we do or don’t do is because we want to have a feeling. Either we want to feel good, or we want to prevent ourselves from feeling bad. You must remember that the “feeling” you are having is always the effect, not the cause; the cause is always the thought. An example of this is, if you are feeling angry and if you go back to the cause, you are probably imagining things in your life that are connected to anger.
As we are now having a better understanding about our thoughts, let’s review the different types of stress and the signs of stress that we should watch out for. The worst of all types of stress is chronic stress, which is very harmful to us. This type of stress is constant, inescapable and accumulative in its ability to wear people out. When feeling the effects of chronic stress, you will notice that your body is affected instantly and you feel an accelerated heartbeat, perhaps cold chills, a nervous stomach, and/or sweating hands or feet. As these symptoms occur, you may not understand why, so the anxiety will increase. Then we start to see the behavioural signs of stress – people begin to avoid doing things, they procrastinate, withdraw, and begin to have relationship problems.
The most important thing is that the moment you feel any of these symptoms, you need to call your family doctor to identify the problem and assist you. Many times we fear our doctor’s news, but the problem can be dealt with much easier if addressed in the onset or early stages.
TV programs talk about chemical changes in the body, but we really don’t understand what they mean. I would like to give you a simple explanation of what really happens and how it happens in your body – the “simple” explanation of the endocrine system, and the function of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland and their functions in the body.
The endocrine system consists of glands that release hormones influencing every cell, organ and function of the body. The endocrine system regulates mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, and sexual function and reproduction. The major glands of the endocrine system consist of: hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pineal body, reproductive glands and the pancreas. Although all these glands produce all the essential hormones, the body’s organs also produce and release hormones. All glands of the endocrine system are basically a group of cells that produce and secrete chemicals in the body. Endocrine glands release more than 20 major hormones directly into the bloodstream where they are transported to cells in other parts of the body. The reason the endocrine system is so important to understand in regard to stress is because the production and release of hormones is directly influenced by stress levels. These hormones affect every cell in the body; therefore, stress can also affect every part of the body, as it influences the endocrine system. The entire cellular system responds to whatever chemicals are released, and it develops a habitual response based on what it is accustomed to receiving. In other words, the cells of the body develop an appetite for the chemicals it is used to getting. Cells don’t differentiate between good or bad chemicals; they just want to get what they are used to getting. Just as we develop lifestyle habits, our cells also develop chemical habits. Therefore, the body responds to that “need” and automatically creates “feelings,” so that more of the desired chemicals will be produced on their own.
The hypothalamus, a collection of specialized cells located right below the thalamus at the center of the brain, is virtually the control center for autonomic regulatory activities in the body. It has been called “the brain of the brain”. It’s the primary link between the endocrine and nervous systems, controlling many complex emotions, feelings and moods, as well as state of hunger, appetite, food intake, and everything to do with pleasure, satisfaction, comfort and creative activities. Another interesting function of the hypothalamus is that it is intimately involved with integrating all of the senses, (taste, smell, sight, sound, touch) which it first translates, then distills and assembles into one discernable “package” which relates all the features of an “experience” into one harmonious experience. This results in creating a succinct emotionally satisfying memory or judgment of the experience itself.
The pituitary gland is about the size of a pea and located just below the hypothalamus. It is referred to as the “master gland” and it’s the most important part of the endocrine system because it makes hormones that control other endocrine glands. The hormones are influenced by emotions and seasonal changes. The hypothalamus relays information sensed by the brain to the pituitary. This is a very important factor in regard to chronic stress because emotions are also influenced by stress, which in turn affect the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the entire endocrine system.
The power to control emotions can have an incredibly positive influence on the entire endocrine system. This has powerful ramifications in regard to many other functions of the body such as anti-aging factors, weight-loss, and breaking addictions, to name just a few. Once a hormone is secreted, it travels from the endocrine gland through the bloodstream to target cells designed to receive its message. Along the way it picks up proteins that act as carriers and control the amounts of hormone that will be applied to the target. Now that you have a better understanding of the function of the endocrine system and how the thought creates the feeling, you also now understand that along with a physical response, your body is also producing a chemical at the same time.
Next issue we will talk about how to communicate with our emotions. Until then remember, your thoughts = your feelings and then simultaneously your body will have a physical response and a chemical change as a result of those feelings. Change your thoughts, change your feelings – it’s that simple.