What is stress? It is a state of being that, from an evolutionary perspective, our body goes into to allow us to elude a prehistoric saber-tooth tiger. Heart and breathing rate increases, adrenaline and cortisol are released, some of our non-critical functions go on hold (digestion) and our amygdala takes over. Now I don’t know about you but there aren’t too many situations that I face which means I need to run for my life so why are we so stressed out?
Throughout our day we are bombarded with what Dr. Rangan Chatterjee describes in his book, The Stress Solution, as micro stress doses (MSDs). These are small events that build up to put us in a stressed state. I think most of us are aware of what these events are and they start with the little oblong device that we carry around in our pockets. The constant barrage of notifications, the inability to disconnect from work, the news headlines at our fingertips, the scrolling through feeds looking for that dopamine hit, only to end up comparing ourselves to all the perfect lives that people portray on social media. And that is on top of the pressures of all the roles we play; parent, employee, friend, sibling, daughter and not having the village around to support us in those roles. It can also be caused by loneliness induced anxiety, a lack of meaning in our lives, poor nutrition, the list goes on.
But why is stress bad? In short, if prolonged, it can kill you. Short doses of stress can be good for us, like when we are in a dangerous situation because our bodies and minds are ready for heightened performance. However, if we are in a constant state of stress, according to the research described in the book, it increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, lack of libido among many other problematic health issues.
I have noticed recently how much Grace needs help understanding her emotions and managing her reactions to simple everyday occurrences, such as Monty not playing a game exactly how she wants. It is a source of stress for us as parents and is also impacting her in other social situations. I know she is fighting against genetics (ask my mum) but also I have not been the best role model due to stress. In order for me to be a better role model, I need to get to the bottom of why I lose my cool and yell at them.
I realized that even though I thought life had slowed down and we were living a less stressful lifestyle, I am still subject to a lot of the MSDs as before. There are habits I need to change. Dr. Chatterjee has four pillars he describes Purpose, Relationships, Body & Mind to help combat the stress and put us into a thriving state. Stick with me while I work through these pillars. Hopefully, you will find something to help you combat the stress in your life too.