Stress, The Double-Edged Sword
Stress, it is a part of our life that we can't not avoid or escape. There probably isn't anyone in the world today that hasn't dealt with it. It dwells in the work place, at school, in the home and most importantly, in you. So what is stress? And why do we have something that does us so much harm? Simply put, stress is an adaptive response, your body's response to an emotionally disturbing, disquieting or threatening event (1). Often times, it is the tension caused when demands from work, family and oneself can't not be met. Not to say stress is a recent disorder among humans, in fact, all organisms experience it.
Stress is a part of the 'fight or flight' response, usually the result of threatening or worrisome event. The body increases the heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate, preparing in the event of actually needing to fight or retreat (1). For most animals, stress tends to come from acting out of self-preservation. The fleeing rabbit experiences stress as it bolts for the safety of its hole. In fact, without it, the rabbit might not survive. The surge of energy from the stress of spotting an attacking predatory might be the difference between safety and death. Early humans probably experienced stress in similar fashions. The attacking lion is a stressor enough to make the fleeing caveman run a bit faster, or fight back with more force. But unlike animals, humans experience stress another fashion, it is the stress that comes with thinking, whether it's about the future or the present. The caveman might have been stressed when the angry bear came charging up but he might also have stressed over an unsuccessful hunt and the prospect of having no food for several days.
The stress modern humans face is not so much the stress from dealing with dangerous predators but more stress of responsibilities at work or home (1). Much of the stress involved are the result of more abstract threats and nothing as concrete as a hungry bear eyeing you. Not to say that that kind of stress is non-existent in our lives, anyone living in a large, busy city like New York or Los Angeles can tell you that fear of predation adds quite a bit to their stress quota. The only difference is that the predators are other humans. Yet much of the times, this is not the kind of stress that seems to be the most detrimental to our health. The top ten stressors in life are (1).: 1. Death of a spouse 2. Divorce 3. Marital separation 4. Jail term 5. Death of close family member 6. Personal injury or illness 7. Marriage 8. Losing ones job 9. Marital reconciliation 10. Retirement
All these stressors are in one way or another, related to change, which in our minds are often seen as threatening and therefore stressful (4). With change, comes the need to deal with what was once familiar but not anymore, the need to adapt. Sadly, people tend to dwell on the change, regret events to lead to it or worry if more change might be in...