A FRAZZLED MIND, A WEAKENED BODY
A major mental illness like clinical depression will send biochemical shock waves through the body. But the intimate relationship of body to mind isn’t limited to serious disease. Researchers have come to understand that what lies below the neck can also be harmed by less acute kinds of brain disturbances. The chronic stress that millions of people feel from simply trying to deal with the pressures of modern life can unleash a flood of hormones that are useful in the short term but subtly toxic if they persist. Thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise that stress-reduction strategies that take pressure off the mind – meditation, yoga, relaxation exercises and such – can take the heat off the body as well.
Measuring the influence of stress, though, is tough. Some studies have shown no effect at all. Others offer intriguing clues. Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Psychosocial Treatment Laboratory, cites a study of psoriasis patients in which half practiced meditation and half didn’t; the first group healed faster. Other studies show that patients who are part of a rich social network have lower cortisol levels than loners, that people who pray regularly tend to live longer and that breast-cancer patients who have an optimistic attitude or an ability to express anger about their disease tend to live somewhat longer than those who don’t.
Such positive results are encouraging, but they carry risks. Patients might blame themselves for not meditating hard enough, say, if they don’t improve. And in the face of serious illness, stress reduction is likely to produce only minor effects compared with conventional medical treatment. But if meditation, prayer, exercise or relaxation techniques take even a little pressure off the immune system, that could add up over decades to a significantly healthier life.
LEMONICK, Michael D. Time Magazine, Amsterdam, February 17, 2003, v. 161, n. 7, p. 44-45. [Adapted].
Frazzled - extremamente cansado, exausto
Weakened - enfraquecido
Unleash - desencadear
Loners - solitários
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