The Nature Cure by Andreas Michalsen

The Nature Cure by Andreas Michalsen

Author:Andreas Michalsen
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2019-08-06T00:00:00+00:00


Stress is aggravated when we have no control over it or can’t see the purpose of it. This, for example, is why young parents rarely suffer from burn-out—despite sleep deprivation and permanent multitasking. Their exertion is compensated by the love for their child, they understand the purpose and meaning of their exertion. Mere sense of duty or pressure, however, are more burdensome.

Firdaus Dhabhar, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, is a neuroimmunologist and cancer researcher. He is concerned with looking at stress in a more differentiated manner. He has, for example, been able to show how short-term stress strengthens the body’s defenses because it causes an increase of white blood cells.8 A vaccination has a stronger effect when the body is exerted beforehand, for example by pedaling hard on a stationary bicycle.9 But maybe it’s not stress itself at all, but the relaxation after the exertion that has a positive effect. The fact that regular meditation fortifies this effect, as demonstrated by the American brain researcher Richard Davidson, is indicative for this as well.10

Like everything in nature, stress has two sides. Challenges have always advanced evolution: When flies or mice are put under stress, they live longer.11 Stress activates the brain. A research group at the University of Bochum was able to show that we retain memories better under slight stress. Cortisol, one of the stress hormones, activates those parts of the brain that are responsible for long-term memory.12

Artists, musicians, or competitive athletes have all reported how important a certain level of tension is. A legendary example for this is Oliver Kahn, the former goalkeeper for FC Bayern Munich, who pushed himself to extraordinary performances by using aggression when he was under stress. A thrill can mean pleasure and fulfillment, otherwise there wouldn’t be people who sacrifice so much time and money to expose themselves to dangers—when free-climbing or base jumping, “danger freaks” feel fantastic. But if stress endures and the body gets no opportunity to relax, it facilitates forgetfulness, causes the ability to concentrate to dwindle, and increases the risk of dementia.

Fear of stress can be worse than stress itself. In an American study, thirty thousand people were asked how much tension they experience on a daily basis, how they deal with it, and whether they believe that it’s unhealthy. Eight years later, it became evident that among the people suffering from stress, 40 percent of those who believed that it was harmful died younger. The others, who didn’t attach too much importance to it, showed the lowest mortality risk of all comparison groups.13

In an experiment, researchers at Yale University conducted simulated job interviews in which the “staff manager” (an actor) put the participants under a lot of stress. Before that, one group was shown a movie that addressed the bad, health-damaging effects of stress. The other group was shown a movie which explained that stress promoted attentiveness and performance ability. In the second group, significantly lower levels of stress hormones in the blood were measured.


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