By John Thurman
You just received a call from you child’s school that you little one has fallen off of the monkey bars and injured her arm and that they have called an ambulance. Immediately your brain goes into the “Fight or Flight” mode. Focusing like a laser beam, you rush to your car, call your husband and navigate traffic to get to the school. So now some moron driver on you left swerves into your lane which texting on his stupid smart phone. You are almost ready to have a small nuclear detonation!
Stress and anxiety, when it is chronic or repeated, does more than shake us up; it can make us sick. It diminishes the immune system and dries out the digestive track, setting the stage for a host of disorders from irritable bowel syndrome to ulcerative colitis. It impairs memory and in extreme cases fuel fear. It can even damage chromosomes, thereby accelerating cellular aging.
As puzzling as this might sound stress can also be a noble thing, a wellspring of life and possibilities. Without stress, we’d be as good as dead. We would not have the courage to protect our families, ask the boss for a raise, say, “no” to a boyfriend, or try out a new sport.
Why? Because stress in suitable amounts is the very stimulation that keeps us engaged with the world.
The goal is not a stress-free life; that will only happen when you are dead. The idea is to have the right amount of stress. It is like riding a bicycle; you never have balance when you are riding one, you maintain it. In applying this to your life, it means that stressors are short-lived and manageable.
You experience acceptable stress when you feel a sense of control. No matter how your body may respond at the moment, you know that you are going to come out fine on the other side-and perhaps even better for the experience. A roller coaster may send your stress-hormone levels soaring, but you know the ride will be over in minutes. When you ride any type of “thrill ride” you are voluntarily giving up a degree of control and predictability that will usually have a prodigious outcome.
Being able to anticipate and manage stress and anxiety is part of developing a type of psychological body armor. This type of body armor may be thought of as a “shield” against excessive, destructive stress. It has two major components:
Stress resistance and Stress resilience
Stress resistance may be thought of as a form of acquired immunity to excessive stress. Stress immunity is the ability to resist the development of extreme stress reactions because the stressor (the person, place, or thing that is associated with excessive stress) is not allowed to adversely impact your psychological, spiritual, or behavioral functioning.
Stress resilience is the ability to rebound from the mental, spiritual, and behavioral impact of disproportionate stress. Stress resilience is important because it protects you when your ability to resist stressors breaks down.
Over the next several Monday and Friday posts, I will be sharing some secrets on how to get a grip on stress, anxiety and worry.
Would love to know your thoughts.