Getting to know stress and knowing you’re not alone

Screencap by me from Youtube.

According to Garfield, in a perfect world you’d love your job and it will love you back, you would always be first in line, sleeping would be an Olympic event, everyone in your graduating class would age except you, and TV would actually make you smart. Like Garfield, we all have fantasies of a perfect world. These fantasies motivate us to escape the real world we are in.

In the real world, we will face bumps on the road no matter how smart we are. The good news is that these struggles aren’t uncommon and should therefore not make us feel isolated from each other; we all go through hardships.

Emergency-Rescue-AmbulanceHow does society cope with these hardships? The poem, “The Ambulance Down in the Valley” shows society’s stance. If you’re familiar with the poem, you’ll know it’s about a town had a problem, which was that its people were falling off a cliff. So they stupidly decided to place an ambulance down in the valley instead of build a fence (to prevent the people’s deaths in the first place). The lesson is that preventionismuch better than treatment.

Funny visual on stress. And you thought you had it bad…

The reason this poem is analogous to society’s stance on dealing with stress is because 97 percent of all health care costs go to treatment instead of prevention. We only grow concerned about people’s stress after they crack, fall, hurt themselves and/or others, drop school or work, get divorced or separated, or in some cases commit suicide. Only after the damage is done are they directed to therapy sessions, relaxation exercises, or some sort of workout routine (like yoga for instance). It’s amazing how little emphasis society places on preventing the negative effects of stress when the concept is universal.

About 75 percent of doctor visits are stress-related, according to Dr. Lewis-Hall. In high school, I remember suffering from a panic attack where my best friend helped me call the school office to tell them I needed to go to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe. After being taken to urgent care, I remember the doctor saying I had no problem breathing. I was dumbfounded, did the doctor think I was playing around? I felt victimized. I knew I wasn’t faking it. I was hurt at how unconcerned the doctor was when he released me and told me that my condition was stress related. However, what I’ve learned since then was that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Having physical or mental pain as a result of stress is reality society needs to address.
An APA poll revealed that nearly half of Americans believe that their stress has increased over the past five years. One-third of Americans are reported to be living under extreme stress.
The APA also reports that:
  1.  More than half of those with depression (52 percent) or obesity (53 percent) say that their stress level has a very strong impact on their physical health.
  2. Half of all Americans said stress negatively impacts their personal and professional lives and one-third of employed adults have difficulty managing work and family responsibilities.
  3. Stress causes more than half of Americans to fight with people close to them and one in fourAmericans report that they have been alienated from a friend or family member because of stress; 8 percent say stress led to a divorce or separation.
  4. The Millennial generation (ages 18-33) have been hit hardest with stress: Fifty-two percent of Millennials say stress kept them awake at night  in the past month and suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.
weightlifting-310218_640Not all stress is harmful however. Just as the body needs to apply stress to its muscles to build physical strength, we need stress in order to grow. A muscle that is never stressed or not stressed enough will deteriorate especially after age 25.  Similarly, no stress means little productivity and research has shown that too little stress is almost as bad as too much.


The Yerkes-Dodson Principle is based on this principle: it states that increased arousal improves performance to a certain extent and if there’s too little or too much arousal, performance diminishes.

Under stress, the hypothalamus sets an alarm across the body, leading n

erve and hormonal signals to send messages to the adrenal glands to release hormones – adrenaline and cortisol which increase sugar (glucose) and

boost heart rate, blood pressure and energy supplies. These effects are why stress raises alertness and increases performance. Therefore, stress can be healthy and very necessary.  The good

 kind of stress known as eustress provides feelings of exhilaration. It is the reason athletes and performers do better under stress.

Imagine what would happen if the rabbit’s acute stress response wasn’t activated when spotting the fox?

Acute stress is another form of stress, one that is common and which occurs for a short period of time. An example of acute stress is when a rabbit is being chased by a fox.

After the chase, the rabbit will resume a normal life. He won’t dream of fox or constantly stay on the run. Instead, the rabbit will resume a normal, healthy life filled with eating, resting, sleeping and hopping merrily around flower fields. This form of stress is necessary for survival because it alerts the body when feeling threatened to react in a quick manner.

The third type of stress is called chronic stress, the type which is most detrimental to health. To visualize this, imagine that rabbit were placed on a treadmill and the fox on another treadmill behind the rabbit. In this situation, the fox us unable to catch the rabbit and the rabbit is unable to escape the fox. This condition makes one constantly feel under attack and gives the body no chance to rest.

The next step after being informed about stress is to find a way to balance it into your life. Check out the next posts about techniques people use to prevent having excess stress.

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