Updated: Mar 22, 2021
Your body is a self-healing organism. By bypassing its natural self-repair process and handing all your power over to a doctor, you might be ignoring the very thing you need to heal. This is not a revolutionary idea. As doctors, we learn that the body can heal itself. Our physiology texts teach us that it is brilliantly equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that kill the cancer cells we produce every day, fight infectious agents, repair broken proteins, keep our coronary arteries open and naturally fight the aging process. (MORE: The Healing Power of Empathy)
We also learn that our autonomic nervous system has two major operating systems — the sympathetic nervous system, which produces the body's stress response, also known as "fight or flight"; and the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces the body's relaxation response, also known as "rest and digest." This is our homeostatic state, when the body is in equilibrium.
But here's what they don't teach in medical school: The body's natural self-repair mechanisms only fully function when the nervous system is in relaxation response. How Stress Defeats Healing Our stress response is there for a reason: If you're getting chased by a tiger, that burst of cortisol and epinephrine it produces will refocus all of your body's restorative powers to pump up your blood pressure and heart rate, activate your large muscle groups and save your life. Stress responses were meant to be limited only to life-or limb-threatening dangers, but many modern-day humans are in fight-or-flight all the time.