Is stress making you sick?

Stress mind body

We all know stress causes ill health. But do you know why or what to do about it? Here I describe an eye-opening explanation by biologist Dr Bruce Lipton and give three examples of how I’ve healed myself of physical conditions using the mind/body connection.

I’m sure you’ve heard people speaking of a physical health condition, saying they’ve been to umpteen specialists, had all sorts of tests and tried a multitude of medications and nothing has helped – they’re still sick. They, and their doctors, are baffled as to why. Maybe this has happened to you?

Dig a little deeper and you’re likely to find some big stresses in these people’s lives, or else many little stresses all adding up until the straw breaks the camel’s back. The problem is that when we’re under stress our individual cells are not healing. The body’s stress response switches off healing.

There is no illness of the body apart from the mind. – Socrates

Most doctors are sceptical of (if not downright hostile to) the mind/body connection and so can’t adequately support their patients.* The majority of managers in the workplace also don’t understand this so can’t adequately support their employees’ health and wellbeing.

We don’t need medicine, we need less stress!

Dr Bruce Lipton** made the important discovery that sick cells in a petri dish culture don’t need medicine to heal, they need a healthier environment (the culture medium in the dish). When they are in a healthy environment they thrive and when they aren’t they don’t.

He likens the human body to a skin-covered petri dish. The culture medium in which our cells live is our blood. The really interesting thing is that our minds control the health of our blood. When we perceive a situation as stressful our blood is flooded with stress hormones and neurotransmitters. While this is happening, our cells are in fight or flight mode – they are galvanising our body to run away or fight. In this state they aren’t carrying on the healing and repair work necessary for healthy cells because it’s not required – survival is more important.

This is an adaptive response in an emergency situation and animals know how to quickly switch from this state into the relaxation (or healing) response once the danger has passed. But we seem to have lost this ability, perhaps because of the stresses we are subjected to that go on and on, such as miserable working environments, long, tiring commutes or being stuck in an abusive relationship. Also, in these situations we usually can’t use up the adrenaline by running or fighting so the hormones stay in our system.

So, for our cells to have healthy blood to carry out their healing work, our minds need an environment with manageable stress.

Never affirm or repeat about your health what you do not wish to be true. – Ralph Waldo Trine

Do you know when you’re stressed?

Unfortunately, you may not even notice when you’re under stress. Any negative thought, no matter how subtle, causes stress. So while you may think you’re relaxing by watching TV, if you’re watching the nightly news you may be feeling fear, anger or a sense of helplessness, even if these emotions are so subtle you don’t recognise them. All these emotions switch on the fight or flight response.

To trigger the healing response you need something where you can really switch off stressful thoughts and emotions and switch on positive ones. For example, have a massage, meditate or get into nature by strolling along a beautiful beach or walking through a forest.

You can heal your body

For the last five years I’ve been investigating ways to switch off the stress response after realising that I was constantly anxious. I was fed up with feeling terrible and made the life changing decision that I didn’t want to live like this anymore. I figured there had to be a better way and became determined to find it.

An important step I took was to become aware of my thoughts. I started to recognise when I had thoughts that were negative (wrong minded) and positive (right minded). I then learned to switch from my wrong mind to my right mind through accepting myself just the way I was and forgiving myself for having a wrong minded thought – yes, it can be that simple!

While practicing doing this I made the astounding discovery that when I switched from my wrong mind to my right mind my body healed itself. This knowledge of the mind/body connection has been practiced and written about for centuries but for me it was new and exciting!

Following are three examples of how switching from my wrong mind to my right mind made a big difference to my physical health.


Stopping a cold in its tracks

It was early afternoon and I started to feel tired, then my throat became sore and I developed a headache. I knew that I had a cold coming on. I stopped what I was doing, sat quietly and focused on tapping into what negative beliefs or fears may be bringing on this cold. Immediately, I remembered that the day before I had thought to myself that the only way I could get a break from my stressful job was to get sick. I realised that the cold was my body’s way of getting me out of going to work.

So I held a new thought in my mind. First, I completely accepted that I was tired and getting a cold and allowed myself to be okay with that. Then, I forgave myself for holding this negative belief. Next, I decided that I would do something to find myself another job instead of acting like a victim and staying there and getting sick.

Instantly, my headache lessened and within 10 minutes my throat was less sore. I had vague symptoms for the rest of the afternoon but the next day I woke completely well. This was the first time I had stopped a cold in its tracks, but not the last time.

Healing my liver

While taking six months off work due to stress-related burnout I had some sessions of acupuncture. During a session the acupuncturist pressed into my liver and was alarmed to feel that it was hard. I felt it too and could see what she meant.

I had my journal with me so on the bus ride home I journalled a dialogue with my liver. This is an intuitive technique where you write as yourself speaking to someone or something then write what that person or thing would reply. Gestalt therapists use the ‘empty chair technique’ where they have the client speak to a person or thing in an empty chair. The insights can be astounding.

Anyway, I asked my liver what the problem was and its response was that it was angry. It ‘said’ it was angry that I wasn’t acknowledging and appreciating it. It was working hard for me day in and day out and I didn’t even notice.

I wrote that I was sorry I had ignored it and expressed my appreciation for it. I then expressed appreciation for all my other organs, my bones, blood, muscles, cells, everything in me that’s working hard all day every day to keep me alive and healthy. I felt a sense of calm come over me.

After I finished writing I pressed my liver and it was soft. Whereas before I hadn’t been able to press in at all, now I could push right in with no discomfort at all. The healing had taken only minutes.

Interestingly, the way my liver had been ‘feeling’ was how I had felt in my job – constant lack of appreciation which made me angry. I had somehow transferred this anger into my liver. I truly believe that if I hadn’t released this I would have ended up with some kind of health problem.

I returned to my acupuncturist two weeks later and she couldn’t believe I’d affected such a big change in such a short time, saying she’d never seen anything like it.

Healing eczema

I first experienced bad eczema on my hands at the age of 38. I was working in a very stressful job with people who didn’t share my values. I was working my butt off and doing a good job but getting no recognition, just increasing expectations. I was ready to quit but decided to take six months off instead.

On my first day of leave the eczema disappeared. Nothing had changed except reduced stress.

I returned to work in a different division with a team of people I really liked and who appreciated my work. After a few weeks I listened in on a phone call in the call centre from a woman experiencing financial hardship. This triggered memories of a similar experience for me and I felt tense. That afternoon my eczema returned.

The eczema came and went for 1.5 years. I tried all sorts of creams but nothing gave me more than temporary relief. Then I started studying to be a meditation teacher.

After about nine months, during which I did a lot of meditation and mindfulness practice, I suddenly realised that my eczema had gone. I expected it to return but it’s now been around a year since my last attack.

I believe that meditation training taught me how to switch on my body’s healing response.

If you’ve found ways to heal yourself let us know about it – what did you do that worked for you and what were the results?

Ciao for now

* To read about a doctor who fully understands the mind/body connection and is truly helping her patients to heal, read Dr Lissa Rankin’s Mind over medicine: Scientific proof that you can heal yourself. She also has a TEDx talk.

** Dr Bruce Lipton is the author of The biology of belief: Unleashing the power of consciousness, matter and miracles. He has found that stress can have much more dire consequences than just causing a cold or flu. It can trigger serious genetic conditions. In his award winning book, Dr Lipton explains the science of epigenetics (meaning ‘control above genetics’). Epigenetics is proving that the genes you are born with are not destiny, that the environment, including nutrition, stress and emotions, can modify your genes. Epigeneticists have even found that those genetic modifications can be passed down through the generations. This means that your stressful work environment can negatively influence your family for generations to come.



4 key renewal tips to avoid the burnout trap

6 steps to create a growth mindset and thrive!

Leave a Reply