-by Matt Leedham
Nineteen years ago, DC Comics brought to conclusion a comic series that has given generations of Americans joy since 1938. Superman was (and is) a cultural American icon representing truth, courage, virtue, and compassion. In 1992, “The Death of Superman” was released in a multi-issue story line featuring Superman sacrificing his life to save others.
I wonder if Superman was stressed. I have to imagine he was. Understandably, he was under a great deal of pressure with trying to maintain a relationship with Lois Lane, hide his secret identity, and protect Metropolis from supervillains. He also had a full-time job to keep!
In all the years that I followed Superman through the comic books, movies, and cartoons, I don’t ever remember the Man of Steel taking a day off. For the life of me, I can’t remember if he had some sort of secret vacation home in the mountains, or a hidden ski lodge that he would retire to. Perhaps it was the Fortress of Solitude…
I found myself in a similar situation recently. No, I don’t mean that I could leap tall buildings in a single bound or that I engaged in hand to hand combat with Doomsday. I mean that I was trying to be everything to everyone and not show anyone my imperfections. I was battling my own supervillains and not taking a day off!
I have been going and going and going for so long that my body was starting to break down. Between back pains and neck pains, and catching the elusive June head cold, my body was reacting to the stress it has been under for so long.
Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally if you believe in receiving divine messages), I learned this weekend about mind-body disorders and how closely tied our health is to our emotional and psychological well-belling. Compounding the coincidence, I just received a book as a gift in the mail entitled “The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders” by John E. Sarno, M.D.
Perhaps I should look into this, no?
We’ve all heard that stress can have adverse effects on our health. But how serious is the problem? Here are some interesting facts I discovered:
- More than half of all deaths between the ages of one and 65 result from stressful lifestyles. – U.S. Center for Disease Control
- Over half of the population (55%) feel they would rather “rest and relax” during their leisure time versus participate in “enjoyable activities” (34%). – Yankelovich Monitor
- Annually, over $800 million dollars are spent on “anti-anxiety pills.” The U.S. accounts for 5% fo the world’s population and consumes 33% of the pills. – Neurogen
- 1/3 of the U.S. population makes New Year’s resolutions to begin stress management programs. – Prudential Healthcare Survey
- One out of every two female deaths are from heart disease or stroke (stress related diseases), compared with 1 in 25 who will eventually die of breast cancer. Cardiovascular disease (caused by stress) – which leads to heart attack and stroke – kills more than 505,000 women a year. Cancer kills about 250,000 women each year, including 44,000 who die of breast cancer. – Wall Street Journal
- 10 million Americans see a psychiatrist for stress related issues each year. – NIMH
Yikes! That’s a grim picture of how stress can affect our health.
So what do we do about this? There is some good news too!
- An intensive three month “mindfulness training” program resulted in a 54% reduction in psychological stress and a 46% drop in medical symptoms. The 28 hours of instruction included four methods of meditation, general yoga postures, and other stress reduction techniques. – West Virginia University
- There is approximately a 50% reduction in visits to a HMO after a relaxation-response based intervention. – Behavioral Medicine
- One-hundred percent of insomnia patients reported improved sleep and 91% either eliminated or reduced sleeping medication using mind-body techniques. – The American Journal of Medicine
- By using mind-body techniques, women with severe PMS have a 57% reduction in physical and psychological symptoms. – Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Long-term meditators experience 80 percent less heart disease and 50 percent less cancer than non-meditators, according to a large body of studies.
- Stress management training for heart attack patients achieved a 40% reduction in recurrence compared to patients who received only standard care. – American Heart Journal
I was taught recently that disease is often the result of dis-ease. How true!
Techniques for reducing stress are strikingly similar to the research-based techniques we wrote about in our post, the Power of Positivity. Check them out and get started on reducing your risk of stress-related disease.