Dr. Sapolsky believes that it is possible to alter brain chemistry to create a state of 'focused calm,' and claims that he is closing in on a path to a genetically engineered formula.
He has adapted a herpes virus to carry engineered "neuroprotective" genes deep into your brain to neutralize stress hormones.
According to Dr. Sapolsky, the clinical trials are years away. However, through laboratory experiment of rodents, they've proven that modified herpes virus can reduce neural damage caused by stress.
Human trials for the "stress vaccine" are still years off, but I'm already wondering where they're going to find volunteers willing to have a modified herpes virus designed to travel deep into their brain injected into their bodies. Then again, with the positive slant the media is placing on this latest vaccine concoction, they may very well have people ready and waiting.
A Vaccine to Relieve Stress?
In theory, the concept seems sound. Take a shot and be free from the scourge of stress -- that nasty little villain that can eat away at you slowly each and every day of your life, if you let it. Nearly all of us are aware that our ability to respond to stress in our lives is probably the single biggest influence on whether or not we will be healthy.
Ah -- If Life Were that Simple
So many of us search for the simple quick fix. How many people do you know who consume diet foods and drinks because they believe it will help them lose weight, when the science proves the opposite?
Most likely these are the same people who are seeking a simpler, easier and quicker solution to exercise.
Yes, the sad reality of our culture is most want the easy way out and large multinational corporations are ever so quick to provide a solution that appears to solve the problem -- but in the end nearly always winds up causing more harm than good.
The Vaccine Myth
Stress is not only not a communicable "infectious disease" that should qualify for vaccine status, but there are countless safe, and nearly free, strategies to virtually eliminate it, or at least its ill effects, from your life.
Will we soon be lining up to get vaccines to protect against sadness, anger, and anxiety too? Perhaps we can develop a shot to make us virtually immune to any of the feelings that make us human!
No doubt Professor Sapolsky of Stanford University in California is well tuned in to the effects of stress in humans. But artificially manipulating stress hormones to create a state of "focused calm" -- using a genetically engineered, herpes-containing vaccine that essentially short-circuits your brain's normal response to stress -- is a risky proposition at best.
Even Professor Sapolsky reportedly said, "To be honest, I'm still amazed that it works."
And, ironically, the Professor also takes full advantage of the real tried-and-true stress relief methods that his vaccine is trying to replace: time off to regroup. He reportedly turned off his email and took the entire month of August off to spend time with his family.
Now that is a form of stress relief I can wholeheartedly recommend!
Stress Does Need to be Addressed
It's important to realize that your feelings create physiological changes. Your skin, heart rate, digestion, joints, muscle energy levels, the hair on your head, and countless cells and systems you don't even know about change with every emotion.
While under stress, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure rises, and blood is shunted away from your midsection, going to your arms, legs, and head for quick thinking, fighting, or fleeing.
When stress becomes chronic, either because you're under stress for a long period of time, you have an excessively negative response to daily stressors or you're continuously feeling overwhelmed and overworked, it can seriously impact your immune system and your:
- Blood pressure
- Brain chemistry
- Blood sugar levels
- Hormonal balance
Stress, even the "normal" everyday variety, can even act as a pathway between cancerous mutations, potentially triggering the growth of tumors. In fact, stress is a serious factor in the illness of nearly all of the patients seen at my clinic, which is why you've got to have an effective method to release stressful feelings from your mind and body.
How You Can Address Stress in a Healthy Way
It is important to remember that stress can be good for you in the same way that exercise can be good. We need that stimulus to provide a balance to life. If most people had no stress in their life they might actually die from boredom.
It is not so much the stressor that is the issue but your attitude toward the stress that makes all the difference in the world.
For many years I have sought to apply the wisdom of W. Clement Stone who died a few years ago at the age of 100. He encouraged people to become an inverse paranoid.
You might be like most people and wonder what an inverse paranoid is.
Instead of believing the world is plotting to do you harm, choose to believe the world is plotting to do you good. Instead of seeing every difficult or challenging event as a negative, see it for what it could be -- something that was meant to enrich, empower, or advance your ultimate happiness.
What an incredibly positive belief! Imagine how much easier it would be to succeed in life if you were constantly expecting the world to support you and bring you opportunity. So whatever tragic or painful event that you encounter, believe that it is there for some good and ultimately making you better in some way.
I admit that I am not always successful at applying this approach, but I strongly believe that it is the healthiest option.
You Don't Need a Vaccine to Achieve "Focused Calm"
Nourishing your emotional health, including stress relief, is an essential part of optimal health. But a vaccine will never be the answer, even if it already existed and was proven safe, something that I can strongly assure you will not happen.
Oh they might say it has been proven to be safe, but the reality of virtually every vaccine is that the studies are done over weeks -- not the years that are required to "prove" safety.
Instead, you can use a variety of techniques to help you deal with stress and unwind each day, including:
- Exercise. Studies have shown that during exercise, tranquilizing chemicals (endorphins) are released in your brain. Exercise is a natural way to bring your body pleasurable relaxation and rejuvenation.
- Proper sleep
- Attitude adjustment as described in the above section
Further, by using techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), you can reprogram your body's reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure that involves simple tapping with the fingertips to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you voice positive affirmations.
This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit" -- the emotional block or stress -- from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance.
EFT is incredibly effective when used on its own, but you can also use it in conjunction with any other stress relief methods that work for you. You might like to go for a long walk in the woods when you're feeling overwhelmed, or sitting outside with a good book may be your idea of bliss. Another idea that works well for many is to create a "de-stress" routine after you get home from work (or at a set time in the afternoon, after the kids get home from school, etc.).
This can be as simple as changing into comfortable clothes, turning on some soft or inspirational music, and spritzing some calming essential oils into the air. This shift in your day will help you to transition from any earlier stress into a more relaxed, calm state.
You cannot, and, I strongly believe, should not entirely eliminate stress from your life entirely, but you can work to change your reactions to stress so that it has only a minimal impact on your health and well-being. And not one of these strategies needs to involve a drug or vaccine of any sort … stress relief can be done safely, effectively and naturally.