The Naked Truth about Stress
How many times a day do we hear frantic people cry; “I’m too busy, I have no time, I’m just so tired”, so often in fact, that it seems almost as common as “hello” and “goodbye” and definitely more common than “I love you”.
In this century being busy is worn as a badge of honour, with humans accidentally attaching their “busyness” to their ego as if the busier we are the more important we are. Men are silently competing for the best job, perfect wife and biggest house, striving endlessly to find a sense of self in providing for themselves and perhaps a family whilst losing sight of their passions and childhood dreams. Mothers are praised for “having it all” and finding work/life balance, idolised for running themselves ragged for 18 hours a day desperately hoping to be “good enough” whilst dragging around an enormous sack of guilt because lets be honest; how can anyone possibly be “good enough” in this day & age? Only 60 years ago women could be “enough” by settling down and raising mild-mannered children who could be seen and not heard. Today’s Mother must attempt to navigate her cubs through a sugar-filled, digital world of instant gratification, over-consumption, strategic marketing, cyber-bullying, over-sexualisation and judgement and she mostly does this whilst working 40 hours a week.
But as if this isn’t enough she must also be highly educated, poised, polite, immaculately dressed and maintain a perfectly painted smile on her made-up face to hide the truth that, whilst she sits through her fourth business meeting of the day and listens to someone whinge about colour of the sky, she is beginning to crack. You see, she hasn’t had a full nights sleep since she had their first child was born 5 years ago, not only due to teething, colds and gastro bugs but on the rare nights that the house is quiet, she finally has a moment to think, it starts to creep up on her like a predator in a scary film, all of her worries; “Did I feed the dogs? Did I buy milk? What am I going to wear tomorrow? Am I ready for my presentation? I really need to get my hair done. When is the school assembly? I should do more at the school. Is my husband being faithful? Am I pretty enough? Thin enough? How will I ever afford to pay off my credit card?” Panic sets in…before long her heart is racing, her breathing becomes shallow, her palms are sweating, she feels dizzy and scared. FEAR.
This physiological reaction of her body is a very normal reaction to stress. As her thoughts become overwhelming her nervous system initiates in preparation to deal with a perceived threat. Historically this response was very handy to alert cavemen to danger and allow them to respond very quickly and make a very important decision to preserve their life; Fight, take Flight or Freeze. Adrenal glands release hormones to put the body into a state of high alert and increase the heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and temporarily improve eyesight. The adrenaline prompts the liver to excrete extra glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream to provide a quick burst of energy to escape.
Now although mankind has evolved over the years our basic bodily function remains very much the same, the only thing that has changed is that in modern times we are infrequently faced with life threatening danger however our body now ‘perceives potential danger’ in a multitude of other ways; money has become the new Sabre-Tooth Tiger; Career has become the new Mammoth and Status has become the new Megatherium.
Worry has become our frienemy as we concoct endless fearful scenarios in our minds and this type of stress on the body has led us straight to the drinking hole of anxiety and depression. As if this reality wasn’t enough the 21st century being (having been exposed to extended periods of this disturbia) starts to seek out some safety, reassurance and escape from this inner torture and soon enough they stumble across a safe haven to call their own; alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, food, sex, gambling, sugar…welcome to the cave of addiction where you can turn to denial for the briefest of moments before the cycle begins again with GUILT creeping in followed closely by his comrade FEAR.
This cycle continues at such a rate that the majority of adults (and an increasing number of youths) live in this stressed state for the majority of our lives. This fight or flight response which is supposed to be used sparingly and fleetingly is run into overdrive, exhaustion and interrupts all other basic bodily functions including sleep and digestion.
Overtime the body refuses to accept this abuse and health will ultimately begin to waiver or dis-ease will raise its ugly head. Oblivious to the negative effects that prolonged exposure to stress has had on our bodies we are medicated, operated and cast back out to repeat the same old patterns of unconscious behaviour. When someone presents to the doctor these days feeling stressed and overwhelmed they are commonly prescribed antidepressants which simply block the persons ability to feel their natural alerts and function at a somewhat suppressed state of mind however the stress factors on the body remain the same only now the person is not as aware and will therefore delay seeking help for the root cause! STRESS.
So what is the answer you ask? You have already taken the first step by reading this. Awareness is the first key and my motivator for writing this article. Becoming aware of our current state of being, understanding the subconscious cycle we have been running and starting to make choices to reduce and manage the stresses in our lives is essential. We can do this by learning mindfulness, relaxation, meditation, practising faith, making healthy changes to our diet, exercising, partaking in Yoga or other energy balancing practices, analysing our commitments and admitting we are overwhelmed, seek counselling/life coaching for some support to redirect, reducing workload, reducing time on electronics and social media and reconnecting to our loved ones. Most importantly look out for others and notice when you hear the silent cry of “I’m too busy” and reach out with compassion to spread this message far and wide…its time to change people! Our species health and happiness depends on it!