This morning, I was led to continue with Lesson 1 in which I had written about how fear, stress, and anxiety are important influences on our health.  Stress is the #1 issue in the creation of chronic illnesses according to  And yes, there is an entire website focused on research about stress.  Why I am so passionate about this topic is because I know it all too well because of receiving a diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease (which is over-secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol) at the age of 19.  Therefore, I feel that it is my duty to warn everyone about elevated cortisol and its ravaging effects when it is left unchecked.

Recently, I decided to take some positive moves for my health to lose some weight, get in shape, and manage my stress level.  These areas had been affected during the last 18 months and I really wanted to do better.  I was able to start a 10-day green smoothie cleanse to help me jumpstart my weight loss and relieve some sugar cravings. Then I was able to start eating a whole food-plant based diet with small amounts of chicken and fish.  However, the other decision I made was to fully concentrate on dealing with areas which were causing me stress.  Therefore, I turned off the TV especially the news and only watched inspirational and faith-based content.  I would DVR programs or watch media platforms which had very few commercials.  Then I increased my prayer time and found some great calming music to listen to when I was in prayer or journaling.  And then I made the big choice not to put pressure on myself to do anything or be anywhere.  I just did my tasks out of “want to” and not “have to” mode.

Now I know all of you have busy lives with many responsibilities and cannot make this type of commitment, however; I wanted to take this drastic step to make a point.  I was able to find that just these little changes made a positive effect in changing my mood and my level of hope.  I literally felt alive again.  However, during the past 3 days, I allowed myself to watch some TV and had less prayer time.  And these two things caused me to revert back to having some anxiety.  This was a clear indication to me that Isaiah 26:3 and Philippians 4:4-8 have great merit because of the positive change which occurred when I made a conscious decision to live these scriptures out.

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you, 
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:4-8, NLT)

Wisdom is not just knowledge.  It is knowledge with understanding so we can live out the knowledge.  What I realize is that I have had knowledge about stress for over 30 years but did not apply wisdom on a consistent basis in this area.  As I am getting older and think more about how I would like to live as long as possible it becomes more relevant.  One of the huge areas where stress may affect us is with our brain and gut health.  I put these two together because in recent research, it has been found that the gut is the second brain.

As noted in my story, I saw the steps I took to manage my stress helped in both of these areas.  My mind felt clearer, I was more at peace, had better resilience to any stressful situation, and my gut issues improved.  And this was only in 2 weeks.  So, imagine if I took active steps to do these things on a regular basis.  In an article noted on How Stress Affects Your Brain | UPMC HealthBeat it states in relation to stress hormones,

“When these hormones are released, they head directly for the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing. When chronic stress occurs, these hormones become unbalanced, which can kill cells in the hippocampus, and over time can lead to confusion and memory and learning difficulties.”

And it was also noted that brain size could diminish and/or shrink with long term exposure to chronic stress.  However, when something is done to combat the stress, then the brain will compensate and return to normal size.  That is good news to show if we just start to take some active steps then we can definitely reap some benefits. 

The current research has also shown the gut is considered the second brain.  There is a good synopsis on Meet Your Second Brain: The Gut – Mindful which explains the biology of this.

“Your gut microbiota plays a vital role in our physical and psychological health via its own neural network: the enteric nervous system (ENS), a complex system of about 100 million nerves found in the lining of the gut.

The ENS is sometimes called the “second brain,” and it actually arises from the same tissues as our central nervous system (CNS) during fetal development. Therefore, it has many structural and chemical parallels to the brain.”

There is a feedback system between the gut and the brain which effects our brain, immune and endocrine systems of our body.  Have you ever heard the term “go with your gut” or had butterflies when you were nervous?  This comes from the feedback between the gut and the brain.  Therefore, taking active steps to also manage gut health has important effects with stress and brain health. 

The more I am doing the research, I find that God had it right all along.  In the Bible, there is so much instruction on being at peace, not worrying, having faith, having healthy relationships and managing finances.  These are all key areas in regards to stress and our emotional health.  In 3 John 2-4, it states,

“ Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teacher, recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth.  I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

What I noticed in this scripture is as we deal with our soul health (mind-will-emotions), then our body is well.  But it is not just recognizing soul health but it is walking in the truth of God’s word which gives us this health.  It is noted that health is the Hebrew word, “Shalom”.  Which is complete wholeness and peace.  This is the peace Jesus spoke of in John 14:27 (NLT), “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  God’s kind of peace expands beyond circumstances and what is going on in our lives.  It is a new way of thinking which affects how our body responds when faced with stressful situations.

We will have stress in this world but it is how we choose to perceive it.  We may need to confront our fears in order to get a handle on them.  Fear, which is the main stressor, can be overwhelming.  In this day and age, we may fear the lack of finances or not having enough to take care of our families.  We may fear rejection and not being able to find a job or not being able to find a healthy relationship.  We may fear not living our God given destiny because we do not see how where we are, will get us there.  All of these are addressed in God’s word and if we will seek Him out and come to His throne of grace and receive mercy in our time of need, He will give us wisdom on what to do (Hebrews 4:16).

The Word of God gives us hope because of what Jesus did on the cross.  He destroyed the works of the enemy and overcame death (1 John 3:8).  We no longer have to fear death, what man can do to us or the circumstances in our life because as believers we have the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  We can have faith, trust and belief in Him who created us and knows about us (Psalm 139:14-16, Jeremiah 1:5). He knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).  However, we have not because we ask not many times (James 4:2).  It is only when we chose to focus on the temporary things in life instead of eternity that we become stress and overwhelmed.

Living the life, Jesus came for us to live brings joy and peace beyond whatever we could imagine (John 10:10).  It does not mean you will not experience difficult times but you have a resting place in God because Jesus has already overcome for us (John 16:33).  You have someone who will give you wisdom and ways to handle situations when you ask (James 1:5).  You can lean and trust on Him to fight your battles while you decide to do good and not evil in this world (Deuteronomy 1:30; Nehemiah 4:20; Amos 5:14).  And if you go into your secret place through prayer, He will hide you and provide you safety and security (Matthew 6:6, Psalm 91:1-2).  It is important to learn to not conform to the way the world thinks and believes and be transformed by the renewing of your mind into God’s way of thinking (Romans 12:2, Matthew 3:2, 8). 

Here are some practical strategies you can do to decrease you stress level:

  1. Eat a healthy diet with a focus on fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, healthy fats, and limited lean meats. These will provide macro and micro nutrients the body needs to healthy.  You may incorporate a good probiotic and some prebiotic foods to maintain good gut health.  See the following link for more information (Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods Lists –
  2. Thirty minutes of physical activity per day.  Walking is free and helps release endorphins which increase our mood in the positive direction.  It also will get your gut moving.  You can go on YouTube and find large selection of walking type videos with varied time spans.
  3. Relaxing your muscles is also important to relieve tension in our bodies.  This may be done with massages or stretching exercises.  And I suggest that if you are unable to afford a massage, find a local massage school in your local area.  Many of these school have their graduates do massages to get their businesses started.  They tend to be more affordable than the local massage salon. 
  4. Deep breathing especially at the times, you feel stressed will decrease some tension in your body.
  5. Take a break to just clear your mind and think.  Just taking a short walk or getting in a place to be quiet for just a few minutes will bring some relief.  However, remember to focus on being grateful and not on the negative situation.
  6. Prayer and meditating on God’s word.  Choose some scriptures which will encourage you or fit the circumstance you may be dealing with at this time.  Then after reading the scripture, repeat the scripture throughout the day.  Make sure you have a full understanding of its meaning and memorize it. 
  7. Journaling is a great way to release some pent-up feelings and it can be a way to chronicle the changes in your life.  Many times, we can feel we have not had any positive changes but reading old journal entries may show our growth or our stagnation.  By doing this we can celebrate the small victories and have a clear view of where we are not moving forward in our lives.  It is also a great place to dream, set some goals and write some visions you have for your life.  I also use it to track answered prayers because sometimes we forget what we prayed and therefore, do not recognize when our prayers have been answered.
  8. Turn off the technology and read a book.  The constant barrage of negativity can cause great stress in mental health.  This type of stress effects the part of the brain (amygdala) which is an area of memory.  When we feed on non-stop information which is negative, we build up a memory of negativity.  The blue light from screens can decrease our bodies response to melatonin which help us get good sleep, therefore, it is good to turn off cell phones, computers, and TVs at least 1 hour before bed time.
  9. Drink plenty of water because dehydration or lack of water causes our body stress.  You may start with eight (8 ounce/1 cup) glasses of pure water and work your way up to the number of ounces of water being half of your body weight.  If you are eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, you may not require as much water because these foods have water in them.
  10. Get at least 10 minutes of direct sunlight and/or consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement.  Consult your primary MD to get your levels checked.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, 42% of Americans have low vitamin D levels and the worse your health is the more at risk you are for low levels.  Many have low vitamin D levels because of skin color (darker melanin absorbs less Vitamin D from the sun), gut health (unable to absorb nutrient), age, or other chronic diseases.  Vitamin D is a key nutrient needed for our immune system and in this time of COVID-19, it is more important than ever.
  11. Fasting is a way to relieve stress on the body and improve gut health.  In Matthew 6:16, Jesus told us to fast.  He did not say if you fast but “when you fast”.  I take this to mean we are to incorporate fasting into our lifestyles.  It allows us to get some physical cravings under control but it also allows our bodies time to detox, restore, and rebuild at the cellular level.  You can start with fasting a meal and work up to a multi-day fast.  Seek wisdom through medical advice about fasting especially if you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease.
  12. Spend quality time with family and friends.  According to an article noted in Harvard Health Ed publishing, good connections help improve health and increase longevity.  We are relational beings and need to have this area of our lives fulfilled.
  13. If you have a hobby, take some extra effort to spend time doing something you love to improve your mood.

You do not have to make all of these changes at once but pick a few and see if you notice any changes. I look forward to providing another blog as we continue the series, “Lessons learned from the pandemic”.

Disclaimer—Information included in this blog is for educational purposes only.  This information is not diagnostic or does it take the place of a primary care physician consultation. Therefore, before doing any of the suggestions which may affect any current diagnosis, medical treatment or personal health, consult a medical professional for guidance.

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