Dr. Lynne Zimmerman
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 Stress:  Solutions for Your Body and Your Brain     


Solutions for Stress

We all know stress is bad.  It damages the heart and raises our blood pressure.  But did you know stress is also the number one cause of adult weight gain?  Stress hormones have been linked to diabetes, kidney disease, brain fog, chronic pain and illness, loss of sleep, memory loss, clinical depression, increased fatigue, wrinkled skin, premature aging and early death.
For the short version, here are two videos.  

Rewire Your Brain, Part I  Unconscious Stress:  Fat, Diabetes, Cancer


Rewire Your Brain, Part II  Dialing Down Unconscious Stress  with EFT



Here's the Science Behind the Work:

How does stress act to age the body and the brain?

When we experience something we see as a threat—be it the boss yelling, our mother-in-law phoning, or a police car flashing its lights—our body initiates the stress response and the sympathetic nervous system goes to work.  Blood sugar is mobilized in the bloodstream for energy and the brain is catapulted to a hyperaware state of readiness.   These processes occur via the release of stress hormones, including norepinephrine (a vasoconstrictor), adrenaline, and cortisol.  Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, a naturally occurring steroid; almost every cell in the body has glucocorticoid receptors, which make large amounts of blood sugar available to the cell in a crisis. 

Heart Disease

When we live in unconscious stress mode, reacting to little crises hour after hour, adrenaline signals the heart to beat faster and the blood pressure to rise.  But we’re not doing anything to use up that increased blood activity—we’re not running from danger or fighting physically.  We’re just experiencing the stress. 

This causes our heart rate to become accustomed to an accelerated beat.  Our heart is in a state of readiness to react to the next stressor.  The result is irregular heart rhythm and high blood pressure, because for the greatest part of our day we have our foot on the gas and the brake at the same time.



The hypertension that results from chronic stress causes our blood to flow in a more pressurized and turbulent manner.  This increased pressure causes bulges and weak spots in the blood vessels.  Once the vessels experience this micro-damage, other types of cells rush to the rescue to help repair the damage.  This is how plaque builds up in the blood vessels and causes eventual blockage and heart attacks.  

Weight Gain and Diabetes

Stress, including unconscious stress, increases our blood sugar levels repeatedly by altering the output of the pancreas, liver, and storage mechanisms in fat cells.  When we increase sugar levels regularly as the result of stress, we lower our resting insulin levels.  This causes weight gain, specifically fat deposits around the midline, and adult onset diabetes.                

A Georgetown University Medical Center study revealed that chronic stress combined with sugar and fat in the diet specifically causes abdominal density, due to a neuropeptide--a chemical of emotion created in the brain--called NPY (neuropeptide Y).  In this study, chronic stress stimulated the release of NPY in abdominal fat and increased its growth by 50% in two weeks.  

Stress and the Immune system    

Even a twenty minute episode of stress has been shown to reduce natural killer cell activity, our primary defense system, for up to three days.  Stress cripples the immune system:  we’re unable to fight off invading bacteria and viruses, which are around us all the time.  We can be ravaged by infections and repeat illness. 

In particular, when we regularly take in stress without processing it from our brain and our body, we are subject to immune-related diseases like allergies, flu, and rheumatoid arthritis.  When our immune system is compromised by stress we cannot detect and discard early tumor cells.  Hence, chronic stress is the precursor to cancer, immune deficiency diseases and auto-immune illnesses.

Stress Hurts

Stress causes increased sensitivity to pain and heightens the pain levels in long-term illnesses like chronic fatigue.  Stress is also responsible for many of our daily aches and pains.  Adrenaline in small amounts acts like instant energy for our muscles.  When it ends up not being used, because we’re producing little bits of it all the time when we react to little stressful situations, it sits in our muscle tissues and causes the muscles to tighten, contract, and feel sore.  At the same time, we’re losing muscle mass as a result of stress chemicals sitting in our muscle tissue. 

Stress:  a Pain in the Gut

Digestion:  when we experience stress, the body diverts blood to the muscles and away from the stomach, pancreas, liver and other organs.  We may be eating healthfully, even organically, and taking the best vitamins in the world, but if we‘re stressed, our body can’t break down the great food we’re giving it.  Without metabolizing our food, without turning it into substances that our cells can use, we’re starving ourselves, literally.   As a result, we suffer indigestion, heartburn, and feeling physically depleted.


Stress makes us feel weary to the bone. Increased levels of circulating adrenaline cause difficulty getting to sleep, waking during our sleep, and poor quality of sleep, so that we feel exhausted when we get up in the morning.

Bone Loss

Increased levels of cortisol decrease bone density, causing osteopenia, osteoporosis and stress fractures of the bones.

Stress damages the Brain

Stress chemicals like glucocorticoids, which are released when we have an emotional reaction to our environment (our job, co-workers, family members, finances), or when we experience long-term stress, as in a difficult relationship, damage the cells of the hippocampus.  This is the part of the brain responsible for seeking out new experiences, and also for encoding information in the brain, including memories.  In this way, stress is responsible for memory loss and brain fog, and increasingly, depression.


Recent studies have shown a correlation between long-term stress, breakdown of the hippocampus of the brain, and clinical depression.  When the continuous flow of stress chemicals begins to damage the hippocampus, we are less and less inclined to take on new experiences—they seem too difficult and intimidating.  We live more and more in the rut of our most familiar behaviors, even when those behaviors don’t serve us.  In this way, stress damages the part of the brain that could actually help us feel better. 

Loss of Muscle Mass, Skin tone and Skin Regeneration

Another major negative effect of the stress hormone cortisol, is that it inhibits collagen formation. Collagen is a molecule that makes connective tissue. It's vital for structural support and is found in muscles, skin, tendons and joints, as well as throughout the entire body.  So we lose muscle tone and skin tone.

More Wrinkles

Cortisol also causes collagen loss.  Stress studies done on rats show that collagen loss in the skin was ten times greater than in any other tissue. Remember that during stress the body prioritizes what is important for fight or flight. Wrinkle-free, young looking skin is not one of those priorities.

Stress and Physical Aging :  Cortisol and DHEA

The effects of cortisol extend beyond its direct impact on the body. Another problem with continually maintaining high stress levels has to do with another vital hormone produced by the adrenal glands.

When the adrenal glands release stress hormones, they are not releasing DHEA –the hormone responsible for cell repair. The adrenals are making one of these hormones or the other at any given moment.  When DHEA hormone levels are low, the body does not have the biological resources to repair itself. The body can't function properly and is more vulnerable to disease.  DHEA also protects us from stress and the effects of cortisol. It slows aging, strengthens the immune system and improves mood.

It takes about thirty minutes after a stressful event for the body to break down cortisol molecules.  (When was the last time you had thirty blissful minutes, uninterrupted by thoughts of what you need to accomplish next?)  These molecules are then reassembled into the necessary building blocks for DHEA. When you keep thinking about the stressful events and circumstances in your life, and even when they are on the back burner while you accomplish other obligations, these background thoughts trigger the stress response, not an opportunity for youthful healing and repair.

Scrambling Your DNA—Faulty Cellular Repair

Cell production in your body falls victim to prolonged high cortisol levels. Telomeres are the protective "caps" on each end of the chromosomes. They allow cells to replicate, or divide, without damaging the DNA inside them.  Every time a cell divides, a little bit of telomere shortening occurs.  If our telemeres get too short and the cell divides, the ends of the chromosomes can fray or stick to each other. This scrambles the genetic information and can lead to cancer, other diseases and death.  Stress has been shown to speed up telomere shortening.  The stress hormone cortisol also causes white blood cells to age faster.   This suppresses their telemerase production, which causes additional telomere shortening.

The Good News

There is good news on the stress front:  energy medicine provides several powerful processes that  actually reduce stress chemicals in our body and rewire our brain to handle stress in ways that serve us better.  One such technique is acupoint tapping, EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique.   Acupoint tapping is simple, effective and long-lasting—a claim very few therapies can make.   After one (1-hour) session of EFT, experimental participants had a 24% drop in the stress hormone cortisol—a marked indicator of EFT’s effectiveness.    

The good news with tapping is that it’s all good news.  There are no needles, no pills, no painful procedures and no side effects.  Acupoint tapping has also been called psychological acupressure, because it combines tapping on acupressure of the face, hands and trunk of the body with focus on a stressful circumstance or event.   

Effective for PTSD, childhood and adult abuse, emotional trauma. 

An indicator of just how effective meridian tapping is for stress is the research on child victims of abuse.   The following study was done with adolescent boys in a group home.  They had been sent there by a judge because they were being abused at home.  One group received a single session of EFT, while the other randomized group did not.  When they were followed up a month later, the EFT boys reported 91 % less emotional triggering and they had all normalized on the Impact of Event Scale (a questionnaire used to assess traumatic memories).   Meridian tapping is also being integrated with notable results in rehabilitation programs for returning veterans suffering PTSD.  

Why Does Acupoint Tapping Work so Effectively?

One:  Balances Energy Meridians relative to emotional trauma and stress.

When we encounter a stressful event, trauma or serious illness, as well as when we deal with daily stresses that are part of our habitual routine, the energy meridians of the body—thousands of energy pathways that run throughout the body and the brain-- are disrupted relative to that stress or trauma.  They remain disrupted, causing anxiety, fatigue, sleep loss, and ultimately, high blood pressure, depression and serial illnesses until they are brought back into balance. 

Meridian tapping or EFT combines light tapping on acupressure points, coupled with mental focus on a stressful circumstance or traumatic event.  When you perform EFT on yourself, you normalize your body’s energy meridians relative to an event or circumstance that causes you distress. 

Two:  Changes limbic system signals:  The part of the brain that processes our emotions is called the limbic system.  It is the oldest developmental part of the nervous system, and as such, it can affect any organ, muscle or system in the entire body, as well as other parts of the brain.  When we sustain an emotional trauma, including a stressful situation or event, it is recorded in both the body and the brain. 

The limbic system is on guard continuously.  It encodes our negative experiences with an emotional charge, like a red flag.  When it perceives something that reminds it of an earlier trauma, it labels that input with another red flag.  Within three seconds, it turns on adrenaline and cortisol, and will produce in us the same emotions of alarm, terror, or stress that we felt the first time, no matter how long ago the original event  might have been.  .  We may experience acute discomfort, unable to focus on work or current life demands without knowing why.  

Tapping on specific acupressure points where energy meridians run close to the body surface, changes signals to the limbic system, the emotion center of the brain that causes our feelings relative to an event or trauma.  Acupoint tapping on the most painful remembered events reduces emotional triggering by over 90%, and normalizes the impact of stressful events.  Pressure on acupoints sends fear-dampening signals directly to the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain, relative to the stress or trauma we’re focusing on.  While tapping, the area of the brain responsible for anxiety can be seen cooling down on MRI images.   

Another brain benefit from tapping:   the limbic system, the lizard brain, is the fear center of the brain.  When it is operating, it influences the other areas of the brain and their functions; our responses can only be alarm, fear, defense and defeat.  This prevents creative solutions to problem solving.   With the limbic system quieted, the prefrontal cortex, the creative part of the brain, can function effectively.  We can then not only perceive stressors in a way that is manageable, but we also have access to the most developmentally advanced part of the brain for inspired problem solving.

Three:  Changes the wiring of neural circuits  

New realizations are recorded in the brain as synchronous oscillations—at the moment we recognize a different way to perceive an event, a different way to see it, the brain records this learning and begins to create new circuits to carry that new realization.  With practice and repetition of meridian tapping, the brain reorganizes its wiring around stressful circumstances or events ; the recognition is there, but as a fact only, without the emotional pain or impact.  Within one hour of repeated stimulation, the brain can double the number of connections in a neural bundle.   This process helps relieve psychological suffering and produces positive changes in the wiring of our incredible neuroplastic brain, as a result of counter-conditioning our stressful associations.

Four:  Highly advanced Thought Field Therapy  

In thought field therapy we look at the meaning we attach to a certain event.  For example:  A child who is abused by a parent may come away from the experience feeling worthless, fearful, guilty, shamed, and ineffective, even as an adult.   As an employee criticized by her boss in front of her colleagues, she might feel humiliated, unable to face her co-workers and conclude that she is a failure, not only in her work, but also as a human being.  Others in the same situations would feel and respond entirely differently.  Because each of us embody different backgrounds and brain chemistries, what is harmless to one is completely destructive to another.  For each one of us, it is the meaning we attach to an event or stress that creates damage for us.  And it is changing the meaning that holds healing for us.  Meridian tapping helps us begin changing the meaning of an event or circumstance by introducing cognitive shift.

Superlearning:  tapping engages the accessed brain state of alpha brain waves.

Alpha brain waves are deeper, slower brain waves than the normal beta brain waves of conversations or math problems. Alpha waves increase immune strength, promote smooth heart rhythms and lower blood pressure.  They are associated with deep self-understanding, creative problem solving, and insight into previously insoluble circumstances.  For this reason they enhance deep personal healing.  
If you want to feel less stressed, talk with Dr. Z.  Ask how tapping can rewire your stress responses and create calm in your life.