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The Relationship Between Chronic Stress and Diseases, Including Cancer

Updated: Mar 26



As a Clinical Hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner, I am constantly beating the drum (so to speak) to my clients’ and anyone else that will listen.  Regarding lowering of stress and anxiety levels, I have for many years believed that there is a clear connection with high stress and anxiety levels and illness.


I do this with good personal reason, having experienced cancer twice myself.  Whilst the first time experience of cancer in my late 20’s was no doubt due to continuous exposure to sunshine from a very early age. Having been born in St Ives in Cornwall and living my early years’ literally on the beach.  Then as an 18-year-old, finding my feet and discovering the love of travelling abroad, together with lying out in the sun, smothered in a variety of the local oils. Not forgetting the compulsory sun bed use both prior to and after my trips.    It is little wonder that I ended up with a melanoma on my stomach.  At that point, I was extremely lucky, I had originally trained as a medical secretary, which probably made me more aware.  Certainly the melanoma did not look like anything you would see on images of skin cancers.  It was (about the size of the blunt end of a small pencil with the skin around it pinkish in colour) small and not particularly angry looking.  It was successfully removed, and off I went to live my life and very, very, grateful to the NHS.


Fast forward and my next experience (just prior to commencing my training as a hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner) was not quite so straightforward.  I had been experiencing a very high level of personal stress.  Much too long a story to go into here and for anyone reading this, I would say that our stress triggers and levels are all different, our lifestyles are different, and how we react is different.  In short, we are all different and that is what makes us human.


This time around however, the journey with cancer (as I like to call it) was not quite so simple.  Whilst the operation was undertaken, and this involved a lumpectomy.  The diagnosis of HER2 breast cancer with oestrogen receptors meant two and a half years of treatment.  Including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, Herceptin injections, tablets which were again referred to as chemo by my oncologist and ongoing medication which I take to this day.  Once again, the NHS were fantastic, and I could not have had better treatment if I had paid for it.  I will be forever grateful to the team at the LRI (Leicester Royal Infirmary). However, reflecting on my life, I firmly believe that the cancer was certainly not helped by my previous lifestyle and the amount of stress I was under for quite some years’.  I now like to practise what I preach and to all my clients’ and anyone who will listen, I talk about the importance in reducing stress and anxiety levels.


I have spoken to friends who have, or are currently going through cancer treatment, and they would all agree with me in respect to stress and anxiety in their lives.  One friend in particular who has had treatment for bowel cancer and I will write about this in full another day.  However, my friend having been told by the medical team approximately how long the cancer had been present, allowed me to trace back (with his full permission) to an extremely stressful time in his life.  This in fact coincided with the timeframe provided by his medical team.  Whilst this is my opinion, various studies have been undertaken in connection with chronic stress and chronic inflammation including the association between chronic inflammation and colorectal cancer.

 

So, what can we do and how do we do it?  We are all aware that unfortunately, it is impossible to eliminate all stress from our daily lives and a certain level of stress can often make us perform better in our working, school and college environments.  However, we need to pay more attention to our emotional wellbeing.  Maybe not always saying “yes” and being the willing horse who does everything for everyone and feels totally frazzled. 


Looking at how we plan our days and whether we can free some “me” time just to sit for a few minutes and chill is important.  Ask yourself what you like to do when you have the time.  It could be as simple as having a cup of tea and reading a newspaper, magazine, or book, it could be going for a walk, getting out in the fresh air (in studies it has been shown that fresh air can help raise oxygen levels in your brain, which increases serotonin levels), or just picking up a telephone and talking to a friend who we have not seen for ages. 


What about the major causes of chronic stress, money worries, marriage or family issues, or possibly a deeply dissatisfying job.  We have already identified that chronic stress can lead to health problems it drains our psychological resources.  Therefore, it is important to firstly identify the cause of our stress levels and then seek professional help and advice.  Seeking help may be from your GP, solicitor, school head or indeed a clinical hypnotherapist/EFT practitioner like me.


One of the prime reasons that I hear for not seeking professional advice in a timely manner is embarrassment, my response to that would be that nobody should feel embarrassed to seek help.  The professionals have heard and seen, whatever the problem is before and a problem shared is a problem halved as the saying goes.  Often just the process of sharing will automatically reduce stress levels.


I will be talking about further simple stress level reducers in future posts.   However, for now remember to breath.  Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, breath in deeply for the count of three, hold for two and out for five. Breath in and out gently but deeply, let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable without forcing it. Calming breathing techniques when you feel anxious, stressed or experience panic attacks can be done anywhere.  Make calming breathing and taking time out purely for you a regular part of your life.


Remember that social interaction can act as a counter to the “fight or flight” response and the positive process of interacting with other people triggers hormones to be released creating a sense of calm and positivity.  In addition to the social interaction with people, interacting with pets has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress related hormone) the simply act of patting a dog or a cat has been proven in recent study of university students that petting a dog or cat for 10 minutes decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol.  


If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with an illness (including cancer), I wish you well in your journey. Always remember you are not alone and with one in two of us unfortunately receiving a cancer diagnosis there is plenty of help available. Including the charity Maggie's with their support centres across the UK and offering support to both cancer patients and their families.


Finally, it also goes without saying that my thoughts are with Catherine Princess of Wales (Kate), King Charles and Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York at this time, together with their families and many other families around the world who are currently dealing with a cancer diagnosis.   

 

Sharon

Sharon Mason

Adv.Dip.Hyp. ISCH ADPR GHR

Clinical Hypnotherapist

Hypnocares

Telephone 07538 470420

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