These days all of us are aware that most of our illnesses and our suffering is the result of the choices we make – how we, as individuals, eat, sleep, exercise, and live our lives. We now need to be aware of the two kinds of stress, and the two realms in which stress expresses itself – the inner and the outer.

What is Stress?
Stress is, most simply, “the nonspecific response to a perceived demand.” The way to evaluate the presence and degree of stress is by observing its symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include (but are not limited to):

Physical Symptoms

Headache
Back pain
Chest pain
Heart disease
Heart palpitations
High blood pressure
Decreased immunity
Stomach upset
Sleep problems
Irritable Bowel Sx
Gastritis/GERD

Mental/Emotional

Symptoms
Anxiety
Restlessness
Worry/Obsessiveness
Irritability
Depression
Prolonged Sadness
Anger
Insecurity
Lack of Focus
Burnout/Fatigue
Forgetfulness

Behavioral Symptoms

Overeating
Lack of Appetite
Angry Outbursts
Drug/Alcohol Abuse
Increased Smoking
Social Withdrawal
Crying Spells
Relationship Conflicts
Poor Work Habits
Compulsive Disorders

Type I Stress

There are two types of demands we encounter in life; our bodies and our nervous systems are geared to “type I stress.”

When your nervous system believes it is faced with a demand – be it physical, emotional, or social – it produces the alarm response.

Your nervous and endocrine system pump special chemicals into the bloodstream – Adrenaline and Cortisol, for instance – so you will be prepared to fight or run. They temporarily alter your glucose metabolism, blood pressure, insulin level, immune function and inflammatory response – temporarily, until the most appropriate (specific) response is identified, at which time the alarm phase ends. At this point all the nonspecific symptoms disappear and the body deals directly with the stressor.

In the wilds, where we evolved, our challenges were usually brief in duration, the source of the threat or demand was clear, and there was a well-defined physical response. Following this brief encounter the chemicals of stress are quickly cleared from the system and the system goes into the recovery phase (relaxation).

But most of our stressors today are not Type I stressors. Instead, they are vague, impalpable, continuous, and they cannot be countered by such natural physical responses as tensing your neck, raising your blood pressure, or sending your gut into a knot.

As a result, the body continues in the alarm state, consuming a great deal of energy, and producing very uncomfortable symptoms and dysfunction. And most importantly, there are no recovery periods, no relaxation.

Type II Stress
This is the state of stress, a state that produces an ongoing state of imbalance, with oversecretion of stress hormones, damage to the cells of the body (including brain cells), and glandular exhaustion, while diverting energy from useful application, and reassigning it to useless tension, anxiety, and unrest (see “behaviors” in the chart above).

The flow of stress chemicals is now continuous. This does not help resolve the non-physical demands we face, and the chronic presence of stress chemicals produces:

impaired cognitive performance
Suppressed thyroid function
Blood sugar imbalances
Decreased bone density and distorted immune and inflammatory responses

This gives rise to all the symptoms above, and in addition, slow wound healing, allergies, increased abdominal fat, heart disease, allergies, anxiety, depression, and innumerable other conditions that have now been shown by published studies to follow chronic stress.

Most of us now recognize that each of us must learn to be responsible for his or her own health and wellness. That means we who are physicians have as one of our primary jobs to encourage our patients to change their behaviors so as to prevent illness and to reverse it when it occurs – through making wise choices. And physician or not, it is equally as wise to make the same changes in our own lives.

Author's Bio: 

My original work in meditation, imagery, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral approaches in the 1960s and ‘70s helped create the Holistic approach to healing and the techniques that have led to my being honored as one of the fathers of Mind-Body Medicine.

A mathematician, physician, poet, musician, and master storyteller, I believe it is my multicultural heritage that has afforded me the unique social, medical, and spiritual perspective that led to my contributions. I am probably best known as the original inventor of of the first deep relaxation/guided imagery/meditation tapes and CDs (in 1972) that have carried my teachings and perspectives throughout the world.

I refer to them as “Software for the Mind,” as they guide the user on a self-healing journey that literally “reprograms” the behavior of the mind, body, and emotions. They have been in continuous use by such medical centers as Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, U.C. Medical Centers, Scripps, as well as by individual health professionals, business people, performers, and athletes, including members of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team.

Considered a new thought leader, my commitment has been to help rediscover and reclaim our inborn personal wisdom and healing potential, as well as our collective wisdom and intelligence. Integrating age-old teachings, systems theory, and techniques of the New Medicine, I have united seemingly disparate fields of knowledge and experience into a powerful, artistic, passionate system of deep healing, personal growth, and peak performance.
My inspiration and my challenge has been to help people—individuals, families, and organizations – discover the truths of healing and harmony for themselves. I am deeply grateful that millions have been touched by this message of hope, vision of a sustainable future of global peace, and spirit of wellbeing.

A graduate of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I have served as a lecturer or preceptor at Stanford University and The University of California, as well as other universities and medical schools.

In 1977, I had the honor of being a founder and Medical Director of the Cancer Support and Education Center, the second cancer self-help center in the world, and the first to train health professionals in the tools now standard in Cancer centers throughout the U.S.. Then, as one of the original members of the groundbreaking California State Task Force on Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility, I expanded my principles of personal change to the societal/cultural level.

Currently I am developing audiovisual materials for distribution over a website, DrMiller.com, which is designed to distribute powerful healing tools and to evoke conversations that can lead to collective intelligence, collective wisdom, and a sustainable future.