Renegade Health Radio: The Myth of Stress

Monday Sep 22 | BY |
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In this episode we discuss the Myth of Stress:

  • Why everything we’ve learned about stress may be absolutely wrong: It’s not stress that’s bad for us, but our perception of stress. This is what creates illness, not stress itself.
  • Why the natural state of the human being is NOT happiness, and what to do in light of that knowledge.
  • How to tell if you’re genetically prone to stress. Kevin reveals the gene that’s behind it.
  • How personal development has led people to be MORE stressed with this false concept of happiness and goal-setting.
  • Kevin’s formula for achieving goals while not suffering from the effects of stress.



Kevin: Renegade Health Radio. This is Kevin Gianni with Frederic Patenaude. Fred, I’m stressed out today.

Fred: You’re stressed out.

Kevin: I’m stressed out, man.

Fred: You didn’t have your three coffees yet?

Kevin: [laughs] I’ve had no coffees. I’ve had no coffees. I have to admit I did have a few coffees when I was on vacation, but I don’t feel bad about it at all.

Fred: But you cut that out, so you’re coffee free right now.

Kevin: Yeah.

Fred: But you have a little bit of stress. What is your stress about, then?

Kevin: You know, my stress is just about coming back from vacation, I think. Just dealing with the things that come up when you’re gone for almost two weeks. I think that’s what it’s kind of what it all…

Fred: All the things that need to happen. Yeah, I kind of have that stress, too. I am sort of realizing all the projects that I have right now. You know, we’re launching something at Renegade Health, and then I’ve got other projects, and I’m like, I’m going to have to give up some of those projects, and I’m going to have to figure out a way to make this work, you know, and get some good ideas for this project. So it causes a little bit of stress, yeah.

Kevin: Yeah, so anyway…

Fred: And then you’ve got a baby coming. Is that stressing you out, too?

Kevin: The baby is not stressing me out at all.

Fred: Okay. It’s not your first, so…

Kevin: Yeah, I mean, the reason I’m not stressed out is because I just know it’s going to be a challenge. And I think that’s what this whole, that’s what this podcast is going to be about. It’s going to be talking about stress. And we found some interesting things about stress. I’ve researched some interesting things about stress. Frederic has found some interesting things about stress. So I think it will be really beneficial for those of you who are listening, because stress is not…stress is in the eye of the beholder, is pretty much what it call comes down to. Do you agree with that, Fred?

Fred: Yeah, I think there are two kinds of stress we can talk about. There’s stress as people generally view it, as sort of like how your body reacts to a situation that happens, like a good or bad situation. You’re in love or you’re stressed out about work. That’s generally, you know that you might fail, so you experience physical feelings of stress, in your reaction to that. And then there’s the physical stress of let’s say, you put things in your body or you over-exercise or you don’t exercise, and you do things to your body—that can also cause stress.

Kevin: And that second stress, you know, that physical stress, I think that that stress is a lot easier to manage, because when you have a process of body sensing—and this is one of my mentors, in the running world, Danny Dreyer, he talks about body sensing. He wrote the book called Chi Running and Chi Walking…books called Chi Running and Chi Walking. Great books. Pick them up, if you’re a runner or if you want to be a runner or if you’ve been hurt running, you’ve got to read these books, at least the Chi Running book.

And it talks about body sensing. And essentially what you do—it comes from a Chi Gong technique that he uses—and you just check in with yourself, at any given time. And if you do it while you’re exercising, if you do it after you’re exercising, or at least on that side of the physical stress, you’ll know if you went too hard. You know what I mean? It’s just like, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be like, wow. That workout routine was just way too hard. I’m way too sore today. I gotta cut back.

On the body side, with food and things like that, there’s some stresses that you don’t feel, but you eventually will. Most of us know when we’re overtired because we didn’t sleep well, or if we had a glass of wine, or if we ate sugar, if we had too much bread, or whatever. You know, all these things that maybe we shouldn’t just eat sooo much of. I think that we can really get honest with that.

But on the emotional side, I think it’s a little bit of a different story. Do you agree, Fred?

Fred: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. One thing we were talking about before recording…there was an interest Ted talk on stress. And maybe we could cover that a little bit. I know a lot of our listeners probably listen to some Ted talks, and some interesting stuff comes out of that, of all those people sharing that great information. And you also researched stress for a book, and I’ve got some ideas on stress, so where do we start?

Kevin: Well, I think we start with the Ted talk. It’s by Kelly McGonigal, M-C-G-O-N-I-G-A-L is how you spell her last name. And essentially she talks about, at least from my interpretation, she just talks about having a relationship with stress. And it kind of goes back…it’s not exactly the same, but similar to some of the research that I did in the book that will come out in July 2015. And for me, I guess I kind of came to this back when I started learning about EFT—emotional freedom technique or tapping—and I forget who I was…I think I was watching a Gary Craig video. And Gary Craig is the guy who kind of made EFT very popular. The first one to kind of put it on the map. Robert Callahan was before it, and then my friend Nick Warner did a really good job of making it very popular, kind of taking a torch from Gary.

And Gary was talking onstage to a group of people, and he posed the question about stress, or the question about what exactly is stress, or how intense stress is, by giving an example. And I don’t know if this is the exact example, but this is the example that’s kind of like come through to me that I use now. It’s kind of like there’s two people and they both see some sort of traumatic situation. Or maybe they’re in a job. I’ll just use a bunch of examples. Maybe there’s two people in the same job, or there’s two people who are trying to deal with a test or something like that, and one person…let’s use the job. So there’s two people that are in the same office and they have the same boss. And the boss comes in and says, “Hey, we got to get this done by tomorrow.”

The two people have totally different reactions. One person says, in their heads, they go, “Oh my gosh, this is like the end of my world. I can’t even begin to complete this.” And the other person says, “All right, well how do I get this done? We got to get done by tomorrow.” And clearly the person who says this is the end of the world, I don’t know how to complete this, they experience a higher level of emotional stress than the other person. It’s the same exact situation. They both need to get the job done. They both need to do it by tomorrow. But one person is freaking out with an incredible amount of stress, and the other person is taking it in stride.

To me, that’s where stress is in the eye of the beholder comes from, where stress is not, stress is this thing that we create. It’s not a thing that’s like put on us. It’s not something, it’s not an external physical thing that likes comes through, like the weather, so now it’s cloudy. You know what I mean? No, that’s not true. It’s something that you create to the environment outside of you.

Fred: And just like in that Ted talk by Kelly McGonigal, the psychologist, stress can be positive, like you said. If you, for example, I notice sometimes I set really tight deadlines. And you get more done and you’re more creative and you figure out a way to make it happen, if it has to be done tonight or tomorrow. Everybody has had that experience of maybe studying in high school or college, where you had to produce that paper by tomorrow and you produced an incredible paper. It was like your best paper, because of that tight deadline. It just forced you to get in that space of “I am only going to do this, I am going to do this the best way I can.” And if you didn’t have stress, you wouldn’t have been able to do it.

And that’s one thing we were talking about earlier. I was hearing a psychologist talk about this, that people think that the natural state of the human being is happiness. And we kind of beat ourselves up for not being happy all the time. But the natural state psychologically of a human being is one of mild anxiety. Now that’s not super comforting to think about that, but in a sense, if you understand evolutionary psychology and just evolution in general, genes get passed along if they provide a survival advantage. So the person who would have no anxiety at all, that person would be chill about everything. So in the past, or even today, it wouldn’t work out, in your survival advantage, because if you cross that river and you’re like, it’s cool, and then you get eaten by flesh eating piranhas, you’re kind of, you know, you’re out of the gene pool. And the person who’s more anxious, is like, I don’t know what’s in the river, maybe we should go around it. That person is alive today (phone rings – sorry about that) is going to pass their genes along.

It’s normal that through the forces of evolution that we have anxiety, because anxiety and stress enable us to survive, because if you worry about something, it’s going to force you to make a decision that’s going to increase your survival chances. So if you have too much anxiety, then it might decrease your survival chance, because you end up doing nothing and you’re kind of paralyzed by the anxiety. But the vast majority of people are not of that extreme, and are not of the extreme of not worrying about anything and jumping off airplanes, you know, with minimal gear and dying like we’ve seen in the Darwin awards. People that, like, make a cup of coffee while putting their RV on cruise control and then kill themselves that way, in stupid ways.

But most people are in the middle and experience some form of stress and anxiety that enables them to survive and be successful in life. So it’s not a bad thing necessarily, but we tend to view it as something bad.

Kevin: What’s interesting too is, if you look at the blue zones and you look at the Sardinians, Dan Buner talks about how the Sardinians stress out a little bit, you know? Particularly the women stress out, and the men do, too. And so it’s not this thing where…it’s not this lifelong thing where your goal is to eliminate stress. I think it’s just how you deal with it. I really think that that’s the key. And what…do you have a positive mental attitude. I mean, it’s so cliché, and almost cheesy. It’s like, do you just have a good, positive outlook?

I don’t think it’s an issue, I don’t think it’s a thing where someone…you don’t feel stress, you don’t get stressed or you don’t release stress hormones. I think everyone has that. It’s just how you deal with it and how quickly you can get your body back into its natural balance, particularly with hormones. And a few things about that. If your cortisol is increased in your body, you’re unable to produce as many feel-good hormones, like DHEA, for example. So that very simply means you have high stress hormones, you have low feel-good hormones, so guess what? You don’t feel good. And the quicker that you can lower your stress levels, which again in turn lowers your cortisol levels, you can start to reproduce more of the DHEA, which is going to make you feel better.

So I mean, just that sort of timing, if you look at it that way, in terms of your physiological kind of, physiological symptom of stress, what actually happens, if you can manage your cortisol levels, you’re just going to feel better on a regular basis. And you’re going to be able to not be as stressed. You’re still going to have a stress reaction. Most people do have a stress reaction.

Additionally, there are certain genes, and I have to go back to look at them. I believe it’s COMT genes. Let’s see here, I am just going to make sure I get it right now. Yeah, I’ll have to get it when you’re chatting, Fred. But there is a certain gene that you can get through your 23 and Me test, and you can find out if this gene, if your body is actually capable of removing stress hormones from your body faster or slower, essentially. That’s exactly kind of what it tells you. And so if you have a variation of this gene, a mutation of this gene that doesn’t allow your hormones to be broken down so fast, then you can react to, you can be stressed out for longer. It’s kind of really interesting. And I’ll get the name of that gene in just a second.

Fred: Interesting. I’d love to know—because I did the 23 and Me test as well—if I have that gene. And other people who did that.

But one thing that I wanted to mention was, because we could talk about ways to manage your stress and so on, but one thing that I’d like to mention before we even talk about this is that, it’s how you define stress is going to help you manage your stress, as well. And a lot of it has to do with expectations, with how you define where you should be in your life right now, and how perfect everything should be, and how happy you should be.

I think in the world that we live in today, people have much higher expectations of their production, productivity, finding the perfect mate, having the perfect relationship, the perfect children, the perfect size retirement account, and perfect returns on their investment, and the perfect job, and the perfect everything, and it’s kind of sort of, everything is going so fast, you know, with connectivity and technology that we forget that we’re only human. And that lowering our expectations sometimes saves us a lot of stress.

And I think that’s one big piece of it where…I’m not saying not be a perfectionist in some ways, but that if you think that your health should be 100 percent perfect, or your diet should be 100 percent perfect all the time, you’re always going to be stressed out, because you’re never going to reach that perfection level. And you’re always going to beat yourself up for it, if you’re not like doing the exact perfect amount of exercise that you’re supposed to do and all that stuff. And I think it’s all about taking positive steps, in the right direction. And, for example, with exercise, we know that just doing the strict minimum of like 20 minutes a day of exercise is like…it counts for like 95 percent of the benefits. So do you really have to stress yourself out over the last 5 percent of possible benefits that you could get when you’re already getting 95 percent of the benefits, if you’re only doing that little thing?

It’s the same with a lot of things where you can lower your response to stress, if you just lower some of your expectations about where you should be in your life right now, and how perfect everything has to be. And then, if you experience stress—and you will experience some stress—then it’s good to have some strategies. And maybe you have a few. I have a few. Some people do meditation. It’s really good.And there’s of course exercise is an excellent way, and other stuff as well.

Kevin: Lower expectations! Oh man, this is like the opposite of positive thinking, personal development and all that sort of stuff. [laughs]

Fred: Well what do you think? What do you think, Kevin?

Kevin: I totally agree.

Fred: I am saying lower your expectations in some ways, not, you know…

Kevin: I totally agree. I totally agree. When I do things now, I have this almost internal saying, where I say, “My expectation is that nothing will come of it, but I work at it like everything will.” If you follow that. So my expectation…I don’t set an expectation per se, but I work like I’ve set the highest expectation of all. I think it works really well. For me, at least, because what I was finding was there times…well, I can give you a real straight up example.

Last year, we’ve been saving money to buy a house. And in last year, the beginning of this year, we got a mondo tax bill. I mean like, huge tax bill. And something we just, you know, we had set money aside for taxes but we just had no idea that it would be this much. And so I was really stressed out about it. We had the money to pay the taxes, but I was stressed out, because we were putting that money aside, some of that money aside, to buy a house. And so I was a little grumpy, probably really grumpy, for about a day. And then afterwards, I was just like, wait a minute. What is this tied to? What’s the frustration? What is the stress tied to?

I traced it back to the fact that I wanted to buy a house. I was like, well, what the heck does that mean? Do I really care that much? Do I really want to buy a house? What does buying a house mean? Why am I stressed out about that?

So my expectation was we needed X amount of dollars to buy a house, and then when I kind of just broke down that expectation, I was like, well, this doesn’t mean anything. There’s no reason to be stressed. What if we buy a house in three years? Five years? Ten years? What if we don’t buy a house at all? What does that mean in terms of my own personal enjoyment of life?

And the answer to that was it doesn’t mean anything. It was a huge lesson for me again to just, it’s not like I just mastered it and no it will never happen again, but it was a huge lesson to me to say, “All right, you know, these expectations, I made these expectations up.” There’s no right or wrong. There’s no one holding me against a flame and saying, “Hey, you didn’t do this in five years and now you’re a failure.” There’s nothing. There’s none of that. So working with that expectation, that like duality in terms of expectations, is like you don’t have an expectation, but you want it to work like hell. That kind of thing. And you work at it like you wouldn’t believe, harder than you ever have before. Like that sort of thing…I think that, that’s how I cope with it at least.

Fred: So you’re saying have good work ethics, but lower your expectations about will ultimately come out of it so you’re not disappointed. And you don’t put all of your sort of happiness into that possible outcome that you’re seeking.

Kevin: Yeah. You can’t weigh the happiness on the outcome, but you have to be happy about the fact that you work really hard to do the thing, because…and this is, you know, I am reading this book called Mindset—I forget if I have talked about it on the podcast—by Carol Dweck. And she talks about a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. And the fixed mindset is always waiting for a reward at the end, while the growth mindset always knows that the reward is in the process.

So I think that this kind of echoes that sort of growth mindset where the reward is the process, the learning, the going through the steps, figuring things out, and knowing that no matter what happens, you did a good job and you pushed yourself harder than you ever had before. Whereas the fixed mindset is just waiting for that end reward, and if you’re below it…and the thing about it too, this is how your mind plays tricks on you. Say you want to, I don’t know, I don’t know any great, well say you’re like, you want to release a book, and you want to sell 10,000 copies, and everything is said and done, and you do this big launch, and you sell 8,500 copies. That’s 8,500 people who purchased your book, right? There’s always going to be that tinge of disappointment in your head. I mean, you’ve reached 8,500 people and they’ve bought your book. They’ve said, “I trust you, I want to know what you have to say, I like you.” And your goal was 10,000, and you’re still going to be disappointed.

You know what I mean? It’s kind of foolish, right? You’re 85 percent towards your goal, and now you’re feeling depressed just because you set an arbitrary goal of 10,000. Who knows? Maybe it wasn’t even possible to sell 10,000, but now you’re upset.

Fred: Just like Wall Street is upset if this amazing company does billions of dollars and the next quarter they make $500 million less than the last quarter, but they’re still amazingly profitable, and then there is disappointment, the stock price goes down a little bit. It’s like, yeah, but I think it has to do with something in the human mind. Maybe you can apply it also to a process called lifestyle inflation.

Think of yourself in your 20s and what you wanted to accomplish in your life. And I remember clearly at some point all I wanted to do was to make some money so I could work in the raw food world. And then as you accomplish that goal, then you have a different goal. And you always have another goal, and so on. People make money, and the more money they make, the more they spend it. At some point they may think, “Hey, if I could just get this job, I would have this life, I would buy this apartment, I would live there and this would be my life and it’s going to be great.” And once they get it, then that’s not good enough. And then there’s something else. It’s always something else.

I think there’s something in the human mind that wants us to better ourselves. But there’s a problem there, because you can look at other people that have less than you, and be like, “I’m glad I’m not that person. I’m glad I have a fully functional body. I’m glad I don’t have this disease.” But that moment seems to be short-lived, because we’re always going to spend more time looking at what other people have that’s better. The other guy is smarter, or the other person is more beautiful, or they seem to be aging better, and blah, blah, blah. And it goes on and on. And I think we want to improve ourselves, but we’ve got to keep this in perspective and just do like Kevin said. I love the way you put it out. I think that was the best kind of summary, of work hard to reach the goal, but can you repeat that for everybody again? Like the way you summarized your process.

Kevin: When I approach any project, I work as…my expectation is that nothing will come of it. And then I work like heck, like it’s the thing that absolutely needs to happen no matter what, kind of thing. You know what I mean? Like it’s this duality of lowest expectation but highest amount of work. Strange, but I think it works. Try it. When the next time you set out for a project, or anyone who is listening set out for a project, just say, “Hey, you know, this could do nothing, but I am going to work at it like it means everything to me.”

The gene group is COMT. I was right on that. I just wanted to make sure. If you have a mutation COMT, the gene group, there is a possibility that you have a slower capacity to process stress hormones, so they could stay in your body longer. So if you have the 23 and Me test, you can kind of put that into live wello, and then you can spit back, and it’ll show you if you have a mutation, and then you can look at that. Deal with that as you will.

I mean, I guess the idea around that is if you do have, if your stress hormones are broken down more slowly, then you just want to manage your stress enough so you don’t produce as many stress hormones, you know? That’s kind of a simple equation, right?

So what do you do? The two techniques that I like to use: one is EFT, as I mentioned in the beginning of this podcast, tapping. You can go to and a friend of mine, Jess Ortner, has a free video. That whole site and that whole tapping revolution kind of comes from the Ortner family, who are very close friends of mine. I’ve known them for—we grew up in the same town, so I’ve known them for forever. So those guys do really great work with tapping. And I don’t even feel like we need to go through how to do it or anything like that. You can just go to their site and find out. It’s

And then other one is more physical. It’s more like mechanical type solutions. So tapping is more on the emotional side. You are tapping your face so that is physical, but the other is holy basil. For me, getting a good adaptogen, like holy basil, into my system, that totally cools me down. If I have my holy basil tea in the morning, which I did this morning, I did the morning before, the morning before that, I just come into the day with this calm, cool, zen like approach, where it’s totally different than like caffeine or coffee or something like that. But with holy basil I come into the day like, all right, I can handle this day. And I can handle what’s going to be given to me, and I am going to be able to do it in a real calm and cool collected manner.

Fred: Awesome, Kevin. I think we’ve got some good stuff in this podcast, and if you agree, go to iTunes. We fixed a little glitch on iTunes. I know some people like to listen like I do to the podcast through the podcast app on android or IOS devices, where the podcast will come to you automatically on your device instead of having to listen to it on the website, and so on. So that should be fixed by the time you listen to this. And you should be able to get the podcast automatically. So if you like it, leave a review in all the iTunes sites that are available in many countries. So do it. We’d love it, even if it’s a bad review, but leave your review.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. I have watched myself during my own escalation of stress and totally agree that my stress begins in my mental idea of how I think things should be. When they don’t comply to what I want, I create my stress. Your first point that our stress is actually generated in our perceptions of the way things are is correct. It is not that stress is victimizing us from out there, instead, we are its creators. Hence, its not that things changed our there and I went into stress, rather how I perceived the change and then chose to react to it. In short the ball is in the court of each of us as to what we do with any situation presented to us. What we call stress is not “bad” in itself. In fact, I thrive on some level of stress and deadlines and expectations I have set for myself. This understanding reduces the power I have given to stress.

  2. Kathy says:

    can I get the transcript?

  3. Kathy says:

    I dunno about this. While stress might be relative, it’s still stress until we compartmentalize it. It’s that initial draw on the adrenals that makes the difference. We don’t know how long it takes for our “logic” to put the stress in its place and whether or not damage is already done with regard to our very complicated chemistry.

  4. Dennis says:

    Good subject to discuss.

    There IS internal stress.

    Stress that WE create, depending on our attitude, as you guys eluded to.
    Someone experiences a certain kind of situation situation, like someone calling them a bad name.

    Person #1, with a confident positive attitude, will not be stressed by this experience.
    They may just laugh it off.

    Person #2, experiences great stress and ill health as a result.

    Same initial experience….2 vastly different results.

    There is also EXTERNAL stress. [Yes, actual physical phenomena in our environment]

    This stress is created by thought forms of negative thinking and emotions.
    The three worst places that have this kind of stress are prisons, psych wards & hospitals although just a crowded
    street in N.Y. can be quite stressful.

    Yes, positive attitude and feeling good will have some effect of preventing the taking on of stress in these external situations, but only to a degree.

    You can take a fully, God-Conscious, Enlightened Master, and they WILL avoid places of great stress if possible.

    So the moral of the story is, mediate regularly and always TRY to avoid the before mentioned super high stressful places.

  5. Emily says:

    I don’t ever have time to sit and listen to a full broadcast. I preferred when there was a written article that I could skim. Having said that, I think your next best compromise has been when you list the time in the podcast that such and such teaser subject comes up (ie would be nice for me to know that I could just jump to 28 minutes in to find out about Kevin’s formula for achieving goals since I have already studied the other concepts elsewhere or are not in need of knowing those). Wish I could have that for this podcast; maybe I’ll get time to listen to the whole thing, but probably not. I always enjoy your studied, practical approach to health!

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