Dissecting Stress: How Today We’re Collectively Committing Slow Suicide

Why is stress both the worst and one of the best states a human being can experience? And how to tame the beast?

It all started with a few bruises

About two years ago I woke up one day and saw the inside of my left forearm covered in bruises. I was in the hospital.

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Once — an accident. Twice — a precedent

Several months later, a little before I was supposed to give birth, something even weirder happened.

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When all hell breaks loose

In between those situations and in the months to follow I met with two gynecologists, with two hematologists, with a vascular surgeon, with a dermatologist, with two geneticists, and had all kinds of tests and examinations performed on me. Nobody knew what was wrong.

The beginning of the end

My boyfriend and I had just left from a meeting with a bank representative. We had talked about buying an apartment. We had discussed mortgage and credit details. We had decided on a place and we had to move quickly. We really liked the apartment, it was all furnished and ready for us to move in immediately, so if we wanted to get it — we had to act right away.

The danger of romanticizing chronic business and the obsession with productivity & accomplishment

I was scared out of my mind. I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me.

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Let’s talk about STRESS

The human body is a remarkable machine. But as advanced as science is today, it doesn’t have it all figured out yet.

A deep dive into the Autonomic Nervous System

Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls our involuntary and unconscious body functions. It keeps us alive while we sleep. It helps us breathe when we’re unconscious. It tells our heart how fast to beat and makes sure our muscles have adequate blood/oxygen when we ‘tell’ them to move. It operates without our knowledge or consent, without our lifting a finger to help.

  • the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)
  • PSNS is internally-directed. It takes care of the daily business of life: Rest. Digestion. Reproduction (yes, with a boost from our SNS during sex). It’s nicknamed Rest & Digest or Breed & Feed. Two sides of the same coin, that can only be spent together.

SNS (Fight or Flight) — sympathetic nervous system dominance

Our body constantly scans our environment, evaluating stimuli. When we sense a threat, our sympathetic nervous system leaps into action to immediately divert resources to the parts of our body needed to fight danger.

PSNS (Rest and Recovery) — parasympathetic nervous system dominance

The parasympathetic nervous system is our default setting when we are not in danger. It lets us conduct the day to day business of life. Eating. Sleeping. Recovering. Reproducing.

STRESS: One of the omnipotent and omnipresent components of today’s reality

Whatever you do for a living, however your life is structured and designed, chances are you experience stress on a daily basis in dozens of different scenarios.

The good type of stress is called eustress and the bad one is called distress

We know stress is what our predecessors experienced during a fight or flight response. When a tiger was chasing them. When they needed to protect their lives. Whenever there was an imminent threat. That was the most basic definition of stress.

Stress is nothing more than our brains reacting to our changing environments

But our brains don’t distinguish between real and perceived or imagined stress. This basically means that the chemistry within our bodies could be the same in situations, when there’s actual danger for our lives, but also in situations, when we’re just about to have a performance review at work that we’ve been very anxious about.

Stress can also have a positive overall impact over our bodies and consequently lives

Eustress, or positive stress, has the following characteristics:

  • It motivates us and helps us focus our energy
  • Is short-term
  • Is perceived as within our coping abilities
  • Feels exciting
  • Improves performance

In contrast, Distress, or negative stress, has the following characteristics:

  • Causes anxiety or concern
  • Can be short- or long-term
  • Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities
  • Feels unpleasant
  • Decreases performance
  • Can lead to mental and physical problems

Work and Internal Sources of Distress

Work and employment concerns, such as those listed below, are frequent causes of distress:

  • Job insecurity
  • Conflicts with teammates and supervisors
  • Inadequate authority necessary to carry out tasks
  • Lack of training necessary to do the job
  • Making presentations in front of colleagues or clients
  • Unproductive and time-consuming meetings
  • Commuting and travel schedules

Common internally caused sources of distress include:

  • Fears: (fears of flying, heights, public speaking, chatting with strangers at a party, etc.)
  • Repetitive thought patterns
  • Worrying about future events (e.g., waiting for medical test results or job restructuring)
  • Unrealistic, perfectionist expectations

Habitual behavior patterns that can lead to distress include:

  • Overscheduling
  • Failing to be assertive
  • Procrastination and/or failing to plan ahead

Why should we care so much about stress?

To sum it up, it’s pretty important to be easily able to tell whether your stress levels are high or low, what type of stress you’re experiencing, whether the cortisol levels in your body are within healthy limits or you should immediately do some emergency intervention, so that you quickly lower your cortisol levels and get out of SNS and return the body to its relaxed, optimal state.

What is the long-term impact of negative stress over our health and overall life quality?

  • Distress can literally make us sick — both physiologically and psychologically.
  • Distress could unlock autoimmune diseases within the organism.
  • Distress could push us into burnout or depression.
  • Distress can prevent us from ever being able to lose weight long-term. It’s also associated with Type-II diabetes.
  • Distress could worsen the condition of our skin, it can make our hair fall out, it can lead to spontaneous bruising all over our bodies or it could make our gums bleed without any reason.
  • Distress is also linked to miscarriages and infertility — not necessarily due to physical causes but very likely as a result of psychological auto paralysis and locking our minds into failure mode, which then does become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Distress could literally impact the way our brain functions as it can even change the chemical balances in the brain, which in turn could have long-term impact over the way we go about our lives and behave with our loved ones.

Written by

Bold dreamer. Eternal learner. Passionate writer. Certified eating psychology coach and food artist.

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