( By Dr Ramesh Kapadia )

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Change And Stress

Life is in a constant flux, continually changing. Life without change is hard to imagine. Every moment the cells of our body are continually changing; the old ones die and the new ones replace them almost instantaneously. We welcome most of the changes as we grow into youth from boyhood and then into adulthood. We are also happy to see our children growing up into young men and women, and getting happily married and settled. However, there are a number of changes which cause stress, e.g. failure in studies, death of a parent or a dear one, prolonged illness of a member of the family, a serious accident, financial crisis etc. All the changes have their effect upon the coronary circulation. The coronary arteries respond to the stressful changes with contraction of their muscles resulting in the narrowing of their lumen. The blood circulating in the coronary arteries also becomes thicker in consistency in response to stress. It is now realised that the effect of any stress depends upon its perception by the individual. In other words, what a person makes of that situation is important. The eminent American physician, Dr. Larry Dossey, in his celebrated book Meaning and Medicine explains very vividly how the meaning changes physiology of the body. The book starts with a very meaningful quotation of the world-famous physicist, Dr. David Bohm, "Meaning is Being". Our existence depends upon what we make of the various incidents that happen in our day to day life. David Bohm illustrates this with a small anecdote. He had been once to a late night movie show in London with his wife. After the show, he could not start his car, and they were alone in the parking plot. They decided to catch a nearby underground train to go home, and they started walking towards the underground station. It was past mid-night. The road was deserted. There was a fear of getting mugged. They started walking fast towards the station. Suddenly a shadow appeared to follow them. They increased their pace. The shadow also followed with the increasing speed. Now the station was at hand, and they sped faster. They felt their hearts beating fast and their foreheads filled with sweat.

Suddenly the shadow came upon them shouting, "David, David, do you need any help?" When they saw that the shadow was of their friend who wanted to help them they felt relieved. Their heartbeats became quieter - a sense of relief came all over them. What a stark difference it makes to the body by mere interpretation of the shadow! If you interpret the shadow as your friend, the response is quite different from one when you interpret it as your enemy.

In the days of Newton and Descartes the body and the mind were considered distinctly separate. The end of the 19th century saw the rise of psychosomatic medicine, and it began to be realised that the mind and the body are intimately connected with each other. And that the mind can effect great changes in the body was proved by the development of biofeedback and auto- suggestions therapy in many diseses. Now with the development of science the role of consciousness affecting not only the individual body but also everything that exists in the universe has come to light. The mind is now understood as not something present in the brain only but also in all the cells of the body all over and even beyond.

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