Kaveh KavoosiMar 31

National Stress Awareness

An aerial shot of a woman laying in bed, writing in a journal.

Stressed Out About Stress & the Toll That It Takes

Stress is relative. It can be found everywhere we look, everywhere we are, everywhere we aren’t, everywhere we were and everywhere we want to be. Unacknowledged and/or unaddressed stress compounds.

My stresses are not the same as yours. The way I experience it, where it shows up, for what duration and to what degree, all unique to the individual.

There are situations in life that will cause you stress in a way that another will be less or completely unaffected, whereas there would be instances where you are able to remain without stress while another feels stressed and even stressed out. I’d venture to assert that the majority of the stress that debilitates most of us resides in the mind. The reason is that stress is wholly determined by the perception of the person or living thing (think of animals) declaring being stressed or witnessing it.

Stress is evolutionarily adaptive and necessary for the survival of the being that’s experiencing it. It is beneficial, to a point. A process called hormesis has us having favourable biological responses to low and moderate exposures of stress, which can include toxins and other stressors. Hórmēsis comes from the Greek “rapid motion, eagerness”, itself originating from the ancient Greek hormáein “to set in motion, impel, urge on”.

As Nassem Taleb states in his book Antifragile,

"Frequency of stressors matters; humans tend to do better with acute than chronic stressors, particularly when the former are followed by ample time for recovery."

If a stress persists for too long, our body can go from adaptation to preservation, in the name of threat to perceived survival. We have more stresses than ever, often because we don’t complete the thing stressing us before adding on another stress, by delaying addressing it either directly or indirectly through some form of distraction or perceived alternate obligation.

If someone perceives being out of control of the thing stressing them, it can be even more profound. There is stress, then there is stress adaptation and maladaptation. They compound onto each other and then we are stuck catching up as oppose to being ahead of potential stressors.

One of the many challenges present with how we have evolved in this day and age is that the beneficial effects of stress have been spoken of less, and its connotation is associated with something negative. After all, the feeling of weight or heaviness associated with stress can slow down or debilitate anyone experiencing it.

The solution for many stresses has been by the popularization and consumerism of comfort.

‘Are you challenged with X? Then there’s a product or service available to make it easier or do it for you.’

Short term, the benefit may be there, but in the long term, if you don’t learn or practice that particular thing, you become less capable, the muscle or mental memory wains, and we can even forget.

My father can fix equipment in a factory, his car, come home and fix the house all in the same day while I would have to most likely call someone for support for all of these. The times have changed. We don’t acquire new skills by having others do things for us or for us not to experience it ourselves. Do you trust a neurosurgeon who read about it online, never having practiced it? The capacity and adaptability to complete tasks including that of the mind lies in our ability to see stress differently. It lies in us acknowledging the stress as an experience that we are having in relation to something we want to flow through but feel hindered by, either by lack of understanding, capacity, strength, time, tools, location, status, race, socioeconomic status…

The Stats

It is important to note the location and specific data points that you see here may not be relatable to you. It’s important to be aware of your own exposures according to the lifestyle, location you live in, age group, vocation, etc.

According to the American Institute of Stress, in 2018, roughly 33 percent of people reported feeling extreme stress, 77 percent of people experienced stress that affected their physical health, 73 percent of people had stress that impacts their mental health, while, 48 percent of people had trouble sleeping because of stress. In addition to that, 75 percent of Americans experienced moderate to high stress levels in the past month.

Ethnic minorities, women, single parent, and people responsible for family health decisions are at particularly higher rates of stress. There is evidence to support that stress kills. It causes malignancies. It causes mental health conditions.

This. Is. Not. Sustainable. Everyone is, at some point, running on fumes.

What ever our stresses are, we all individually benefit from alleviation of our own stresses, especially those that are chronic.

“I'm used to handling a lot of stress”.

If you find yourself saying this, you are running near one small breaking point that can imminently derail your entire life. Stress management is necessary. The benefits come through reflecting on what your current stresses are, if the stress is actually something that still requires attention or not, if so, how to go about it, creating a list of priorities, and not moving down the list or taking on new stressors until others are complete or are in a time-dependent motion already.

As long as something remains in the mind unfinished, unaddressed, or incomplete, it has the tendency to remain a stress in our minds.

So, are you stressed? If so, About what? Is it money, work, economy, politics, family, relationships, health, financials, employment, safety, studies, grief?

Focus for a moment on this question. What are you most stressed about?

Now, consider, are you taking effective steps to address it? Has it been delayed? Is it in your control? Does it just require patience and time or a different plan of action? Can it be resolved by the addition of some form of tool or the support of someone who can help there?

Some free forms of stress management include movement, immersing yourself in calm nature, meditation, journaling, regular uninterrupted sleep, adequate hydration, eating well and wholesome connections. You may need to seek out support, talk it out with someone, get outside, but please, get involved with becoming aware of what stresses you are currently experiencing, and if you haven’t already, start taking the necessary steps to address them.