BY RALPH BLUM
central nervous system, endocrine and immune systems communicate constantly
with each other to maintain homeostasis—a healthy balance that promotes health
and healing. Then at moments of perceived threat, these systems respond almost
instantaneously with a chain of physical responses commonly known as fight-or-flight.
evolved to protect us from acute physical danger—like an attack from a wild
animal—the fight-or-flight system is a brilliant mechanism for handling
acute, concrete threats, and then returning to homeostasis when the threat has
passed. However, this emergency response system was not designed to be
continuously activated, and when it receives a threat message for which there
is no swift resolution, the result is chronically elevated levels of stress
hormones that repress the action of the immune system. In fact, according to
Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. stress hormones are so effective at curtailing immune
function that doctors provide them to recipients of transplants so that their
immune systems wouldn’t reject the foreign tissues.
In today’s world, the challenges most of us face have
shifted from immediate physical threats to unending or chronic emotional ones.
The term “stress” has become a generic term that we commonly use instead of
specifically describing feelings as varied as frustration, exhaustion, anxiety,
worry, grief, fear and despair. Yet these emotions, generated by stress, can
trigger the same flight-or-fight response system that our body deploys
to survive a close encounter with a lion, without, however, the release of escaping from that encounter and restoring
are three distinct categories of stress which, taking my cue from Dr. Scholz’s Blue Shades of prostate cancer, I have designated GREEN, BLINKING YELLOW and FLASHING
RED to indicate the different stress levels.
is important to point out that not all stress is harmful. Brief episodes of
stress heighten our alertness, sharpen our senses and actually improve immune
function. It is what the flight-or-fight response was designed for and I
consider them as GREEN stress responses.
second category—BLINKING YELLOW—is referred to by researchers as “tolerable
stress.” This is stress that could become harmful, however we have the capacity
to recover though relationships, and through practices like regular exercise,
meditation, healthy eating and adequate sleep. Though we are still disturbed by
episodes of BLINKING YELLOW stress, if we recognize and respond to them at
their onset, we are able to regain and restore internal balance.
or toxic stress is the FLASHING RED variety. In the grip of toxic stress, we don’t fully
regain our equilibrium because the healing relationships and practices that may
have worked with tolerable stress are insufficient and thus no longer
successful. If it accumulates in our bodies, toxic stress “dysregulates” the
systems that protect health and healing.
wags have suggested that a few large margaritas or smoking dope might help! But
the hard fact is: When the BLINKING YELLOW occurs you need to act, to use
available remedies so you do not progress to the toxic, FLASHING RED degree of
stress. Strange to say (And I found it a pleasant surprise) activities like
meditation and yoga seem to do the most to reestablish homeostatic balance.