Chronic Stress is Ruining Our Health and
Bankrupting Our Economy
Discover what YOU can do about it now.
$16.95 - 383 pages, Softcover
A Wake Up Call For a Stressed Out America
In this eye opening, compelling and informative book, Peter McCarthy delivers a bold and controversial analysis of the US epidemic of stress and offers realistic solutions to heal our bodies, our health care system and our economy.
Praise for Adrenaline Nation
"Hat's off to Peter McCarthy for putting such a powerful expose together concerning the pandemic health issues that we face today. For over 30 years, Peter has been ringing the warning bell and fighting an uphill battle to protect our health freedom. Now, he has documented his experiences in Adrenaline Nation with the hope that his warnings will be clearly understood. Peter’s effort to make a positive difference in the health and wellness of Americans comes from the heart. His intensive research behind epidemic disease and chronic stress can change the direction we are going in America. Adrenaline Nation is a must read for everyone." -- Janet Starr Hull, PhD, CN, Author of Sweet Poison and Splenda®: Is It Safe Or Not?
“A fascinating look at the whole picture of stress and how it affects our health. Adrenaline Nation presents an amazing amount of information, covering the wide spectrum of stress factors, but also showing how they work together in a holistic manner. Mainstream medicine virtually ignores almost all of these factors even though stress is a significant source of disease and illness. I can testify from personal experience that most of us don't appreciate what stress can do to our health until it's too late. Great job!" – Alan Smith, Author, UnBreak Your Health
"Peter McCarthy is like no other CAM guy I’ve even met, and I’ve met quite a few in my thirty years defending medical mavericks. He’s an Air Force Academy graduate, has advanced training in management and organizations, and was operations officer for a Strategic Air Command B 52 Wing (and talk about maintaining optimum performance while managing the stress of individuals who at any instant may be called upon to deliver a nuclear response). And the same guy easily converses about the intricacies of endocrine gland functions, vibrational medicine and the latest research on the causes of stress. And then there’s his deep involvement in the health freedom movement which has given him the opportunity to observe up-close the scientific/political battles between mainstream medicine and CAM. The result of Peter’s eclectic life experiences is Adrenaline Nation. Peter’s book is a multidimensional, almost fractal look at stress starting at the micro level of physiology, continuing to the more macro level of organizations, then to the big picture of societal stress and its effect on the health of the nation, and finishes up with practical advice to lower stress levels. Only Lt. Col. (retired) Peter McCarthy, Traditional Naturopath could have written a book this insightful and comprehensive. Read it! - Richard Jaffe, Esq., attorney and author of Galileo’s Lawyer
Preface: Some Personal Perspective
“Adrenaline Nation is a commentary on American culture and how chronic stress is built into the most fundamental aspects of its structure. This stress has lead to increases in illness and lower productivity and to our current health care and economic crises. In turn, our response is only creating more stress which then worsens our health and economic systems. We are in a vicious cycle. A perfect storm is forming that will cause it all to come crashing down soon, unless we fix the root cause of this system failure—our culture of stress.” — John Morgenthaler
My personal introduction to the Adrenaline Nation and its connection to chronic stress began on May 5, 1961. I was a fifth grade student at Immaculate Heart of Mary grammar school in Scarsdale, NY. That morning, the Sisters of Charity, the teaching order at our school, trooped us all down to the big lunch room in the basement. Mounted high in the corner of the room was a large black-and-white TV, tuned to WCBS-TV in nearby New York City. Sister Lydia, the wall-eyed sixth grade teacher, strode to the front of the room and admonished us, “Be quiet! You’re going to see history made today!” Just then, the television displayed a close up shot of a black conical shape perched atop a large rocket, which was spewing vapor from its side. That shape was the Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7, and strapped inside was Navy Commander Alan Shepard, soon to be the first American to fly in outer space. The voice of Walter Cronkite announced a resumption in the countdown to liftoff. I was totally hooked.
For a somewhat geeky, uncoordinated, overweight schoolboy, this was the dream job I had been searching for. To fly in outer space! As the countdown continued, my absorption with the event, and its significance, grew and grew. I wanted to be the guy on top of that rocket! The powerful symbolism of that day was palpable. It was the beginning of an era where we Americans, as a nation and as individuals, truly believed we could do anything, and I was no exception.
Fast forward to the early afternoon of July 20, 1969. I am now a sophomore cadet at the Air Force Academy, propelled there by my still-burning desire to be an astronaut. Having just arrived home on summer leave, I am ensconced in my Dad’s lounge chair in our den; my eyes, ears, mind and heart again glued to the television and the voice of Walter Cronkite. For the next five hours, I would not leave that room, following every move of Apollo 11 through undocking of the lunar lander, powered descent and landing on the surface of the moon, and Neil Armstrong’s immortal words, “That’s one small step. . . “
I believe the major reason why I found myself so entranced by these monumental events in American history was that I had completely internalized the belief that I could do anything. And no surprise considering my influences. Raised in the New York City area and the child of media broadcast professionals, I was surrounded by the latest and greatest of American lifestyle enhancements: rapid transportation and communication, state-of-the-art skyscrapers and houses, and the most technologically advanced nutrition and health care delivery systems. The achievement of landing a man on the moon was just the icing on the cake proving that my dream, and any dream, could be a reality!
But although I, like millions of people across the nation, was caught up in the excitement of our achievements, the unwitting price being exacted on me, and all of us, was one I was only to realize many years later: STRESS. The mention of the word now brings a variety of reactions from virtually everyone: a knowing nod of the head, rolling of the eyes, and numerous body language and verbal acknowledgments that we truly know what stress is. But do we really? And do we really understand the effects and costs of the imposition of stress on our bodies and on our society in 21st Century America?
A culture of high achievement and ambition is usually associated with positive results like a greater acquisition of wealth and the accomplishment of a goal, but the dark side of this kind of culture is the feeling that you can never have enough or be good enough. The watchwords of American culture over the last few decades have become “never give up,” “you can always be better,” and “push harder.” We idolize our heroes and then measure ourselves against them. We compete against our co-workers, friends and neighbors in a keeping-up-with-the-Jones' mentality. We continually strive to have more, to be better and to reach for that American dream. We do all of these things habitually and unconsciously without the recognition that, over time, things will inevitably start to crack and fall apart.
Physiologically, we are equipped with the same adrenaline stress response mechanism of our ancient ancestors. However, we Americans are under a stress load to which our bodies can not adequately respond. The constant striving we experience means a constant adrenaline response, but this energy is a finite resource. Pushing ourselves hard and overdrawing on this resource leads to a depleted body and, frequently, fatal illness. Multiply this effect by thousands, if not millions of times across our society, and the cumulative effects mushroom into the chronic stress we experience across our society – at work, at school, at home, on the road, virtually everywhere.
The problem is that most of us don’t know exactly to what degree stress impacts our lives and, of equal importance, how we can change those factors that negatively affect us. A major reason for this problem is our societal belief that someone else is responsible for our health and well-being, so as individuals, we accept that we have no knowledge or power. This is an example of what Deepak Chopra, MD, in his book Creating Affluence, accurately calls “the hypnosis of social conditioning,” or the unquestioning acceptance of a belief or set of beliefs that may or may not be true. However, the startling truth of the negative impact of this type of unconscious behavior over that last several decades is now coming to light. The experience of chronic stress has caused many of us to awaken to the reality that all is NOT right with our health care system and our societal structure, and that the only way we can change things is to educate and empower ourselves, collectively and as individuals.
This concept of self-empowerment is a cornerstone of my practice as a traditional naturopath, a health care practitioner that specializes in wellness, and has proven its validity throughout my years of working with clients. Only through conscientious application of newly learned information can a person change those behaviors which negatively impact his/her health. In turn, this occurs only when the person is sufficiently motivated to change, and takes action on recommendations for change. Motivation and action: the twin keys to positive change and growth.
My own journey to self-empowerment really began in the mid-1960s with my introduction to the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as it is now known, and was initially fueled by the typical desire of any young, athletic male: to be bigger, stronger and faster. Perhaps the most enduring legacy I inherited from my father was an appreciation of the athletic benefits of both strength and cardiovascular fitness training. Dad was also the one who initially pointed me toward the vitamin section of our local drug store, my first step into the world of CAM. However, it became quickly obvious to me that these nutritional supplements had inherent value beyond sports conditioning, such as better mental concentration and improved resistance to common illnesses.
Throughout my tenure at the Air Force Academy, I continued to be attracted to this means of assisting my goals of increased fitness and better health, even though at the time they were not readily available to me. After graduation from the Academy in 1972, making a regular paycheck for the first time as an active duty military pilot, I renewed my quest for better health and found the local drug store in Enid, Oklahoma, near where I was stationed. However, as my knowledge base expanded, I saw that there were other, more effective means of achieving my goals, which led me to investigate the then growing number of health food stores, nearby and across the country, and the higher quality nutritional products they carried. I learned early on that just as with any food product, quality matters when you select and consume nutritional supplements. My never ceasing search for better quality led me to both better supplements and an increased knowledge base.
By the mid-1980's, I was well informed and attempted to share my newfound knowledge with my family, but like most people in similar situations at that time, I was branded the family 'health nut.' The amateur nature of my knowledge was obvious and nobody would take me seriously. At the same time, I began to see both of my parents, members of my extended family, and their circle of friends and acquaintances sicken and die from a variety of illnesses. With the level of health knowledge that I possessed, I tended to look at each of the circumstances surrounding their demises as individual occurrences, causally separate from one another. What I didn't know was that living in the New York metropolitan area, one of the highest stress environments in this country, was connected to all of their illnesses.
In those same years, I also acquired academic training in management and organizational behavior and change, and came to see how Corporate America is caught in a vicious cycle of stress. There is a need to control ever-escalating health care costs and at the same time a need to make employees ‘more productive,’ but the very act of making them more productive increases their stress, thereby directly contributing to the increase in health care costs! My understanding of stress in America had begun.
Then in 1992, though I had not fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, I retired from a successful 20 year military career and transitioned to working as a pilot for a major commercial airline. With my knowledge of the health benefits of CAM as well as that of the stress in Corporate America, I began to notice the effects of chronic stress on both the employees I worked with and the passengers we served. Each flying day, I saw a constant parade of people board our airplanes, many of them in wheelchairs, suffering from a huge variety of illnesses whose root cause was stress. At the same time, the airline crew members themselves were working in an environment which can arguably be described as one of the most hostile to good health on the planet. It is literally full of stressors at every turn. The results are displayed in the fact that pilots suffer from disproportionately high rates of cancer, especially brain cancer, and that female flight attendants are reportedly a segment of the US population with one of the highest rates of autoimmune disease in this country.
Though serious as this situation was, it took until the late 1990's, after the deaths of my mother in 1987 (from congestive heart failure brought on by morbid obesity), my family members and their friends over the years and finally my father in 1996 (from recurrent prostate cancer caused in part by lifelong smoking), to really complete my journey of self-empowerment. I finally clearly saw the limitations of our conventional medical establishment, essentially powerless to help people survive, much less thrive. Like any child dealing with the loss of one’s parents, I grieved, but I also became motivated and took action to personally stay as healthy as possible and to not repeat their experience. As well, due to my awareness that living and working in a high stress environment is a prime factor in illness, I committed myself to helping other people where conventional medicine had let them down.
This desire to help others led to beginning my career as a traditional naturopath in 2003. Traditional naturopaths teach clients to employ natural lifestyle approaches which can facilitate the body’s own, innate healing and health maintenance mechanisms. We use a combination of in-depth diet and lifestyle counseling, natural substances such as vitamins, herbs and minerals to fill the body’s nutritional gaps, and other non-invasive modalities such as energy work, bioresonance therapy and detoxification to help the body return itself to the path of health.
We do not attempt to diagnose or treat disease, but rather recognize that any sub par health condition has its roots in underlying cumulative and destructive processes. These processes may include, but not be limited to, improper diet, lifestyle and relationship issues, environmental factors such as toxic exposure, or a combination of all of these and many more. These mental, emotional and physiological stressors can lead to a breakdown of the body’s defenses and subsequently a breakdown in health.
When a client brings a medical diagnosis to the traditional naturopath’s office, it becomes just one data point of many, and not the most important one at that. One of my teachers, Elaine Newkirk, ND, puts it best: we keep asking the question “why?” about the condition until we get to the root cause of the problem. Once we discover that root cause, we then address it and give the body the tools to help it heal itself.
I have seen the stress management part of my practice explode into its single largest component. Virtually everyone who walks through my office door, from children to the elderly, exhibits the impact of the stress of contemporary life: children with digestive issues, elderly with biochemical imbalances, and working professionals with energy management issues are just some of the many stress-related conditions I have been confronted with.
As my health knowledge has expanded to the professional level and my quest to know more has continued, I now clearly understand the absolutely critical importance and impact of the body’s stress response on a whole host of health concerns, and the factors which impact our ability to stay healthy (or not) in today’s society. You hold the result of this knowledge and this quest in your hands.
What can you expect to gain from this book? First and most important, you will get a clearer understanding of what stress is and how chronic, unmitigated stress has definite and considerable costs to our economy and our health. We have truly bought into other aspects of the “hypnosis of social conditioning,” that we can easily deal with stress and that the solutions we have chosen, or that have been chosen for us, cheaply and effectively cope with it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The impact of chronic stress goes far beyond the purely personal or familial. The cumulative impact of our institutional, individual and societal reaction to stress is like a pebble dropped in a pond. It ripples throughout virtually every facet of our civilization: our work, our health, our relationships, our spirituality, and our economy.
The second learning objective I offer in this book is a better understanding of our bodies’ reaction to stress, and the pervasive influence this reaction has on virtually every aspect of our lives. This is important from an individual standpoint, as well as from an organizational management standpoint. Responsible corporate managers need to become more fully aware that the demands placed on their employees generate definite and considerable costs to their corporations’ bottom lines. Although we as a society continue to pride ourselves on our increasing technological and cultural sophistication, our physiology has not changed appreciably in millennia. The environment in which we live today could not be more different than the prehistoric era in which we evolved. It is this widening gap between the finite capabilities of our physiological reactions and the demands of the environment to which we react that is at the root of most of our contemporary health problems and, therefore, of the dilemma in which American society finds itself.
Third and finally, this book provides a step-by-step plan for individuals and organizations to take back control and move into action to benefit both themselves and those around them. This knowledge is essential to empower our choices and affect a powerful change in our businesses, our individual lives, our families, and our overarching societal structures. It is the cornerstone of an important campaign to bring this awareness to both the business community and the general public. Once we have the facts, we can all take responsibility to alter our course in order to protect and improve our finances, quality of life, state of health and overall well being. Adrenaline Nation is an urgent and compelling wake up call for our stressed-out economy, population and society.
At this point, you should offer yourself a pat on the back. By being motivated to pick up this book and begin to read it, you are taking a powerful, life changing step towards improving your -- and our entire society’s -- reaction to and ability to handle the stressors which are imposed upon us. I would ask you to do me one favor: if, after you have finished this book, you feel that it has value, take action. Not only implement the recommendations yourself, but help our society better deal with stress and tell at least two friends about it. Only by increasing the awareness of our fellow citizens will we be able to make a lasting difference in how we deal with stress, both individually and as a society.
Table of Contents
Preface – Some Personal Perspective
Part One – Living and Working with The Stress Stack: Benefits and Costs
Chapter 1 – What Is Stress?
Chapter 2 - America’s Self-Inflicted Wound: Stress, Productivity and The Health Care Crisis
Chapter 3 – The Stress Factory: A Day at the Office
Part Two – How It All Works: Creating the Stress Stack
Chapter 4 – The Body’s Energy Managers: A Limited Line of Credit
Chapter 5 – Effects of Chronic Stress: Breaking the Bank
Chapter 6 – Stress and Gender: Head in the Sand vs. Climbing the Sand Dune
Part Three – Taking Back Control
Chapter 7 – Laying the Foundation: Addressing the Issue of Change
Chapter 8 – Tearing Down the Stress Stack: Organizational and Personal Solutions
Chapter 9 – Avoiding the Collision
About Peter McCarthy
McCarthy holds a Doctorate in Traditional Naturopathy from Trinity College of Natural Health, and an M.A. in Management and Supervision from Central Michigan University. He also chairs the nation’s largest state level natural health advocacy network, the Texas Health Freedom Coalition, and is a former member of the Advisory Committee of the American Naturopathic Certification Board and President of the Texas Complementary and Alternative Medical Association. Read more about Peter McCarthy