I used to think it was normal. I loved the amount of things I could get done in a day if I just kept going. If I was stressed and busy, I must be very productive. And I was, for a while. But it couldn’t last. With too many plates spinning, one came crashing down bringing stress & overwhelm to my door.
I know now that stress is a normal function of how our body works. The problem is it has sneaked into our everyday language over the last few years to casually explain how we feel when tasks become difficult to manage. Is this right? Why do we let ourselves get to this point, where we cannot cope with our lot?
It is like a sign of weakness admitting you are stressed. Almost like a badge of honour to be working so hard. Looking back I felt I had to do it all myself and thought that I couldn’t ask for more help. I could manage it all. I found out I couldn’t.
Our lives really have become so busy. Both parents working in many situations, long days, childcare issues and then what to do when children are sick, are all a huge part of people’s lives. Add in demands at work, constant changes in technology, 24 hour access to emails so you are always “on”, sitting in busy traffic and the list goes on. The changes in our society over the last 30 years have been significant and not good for our stress levels.
Everyone feels stress differently, but no one is immune to it. The medical world has always known about it, but the damage to our bodies from long term stress has resulted in World Health Organization declaring it to be an epidemic.
On the other side, stress can be a huge motivator when meeting your deadlines, getting important work done or preparing for exams. This stress should be short term only. In my previous job, during a conversation with a cardiologist I discovered one of the main stress hormones is Cortisol. Cortisol should only be produced for short periods and then switch off after these short stress events. However, when someone is in a regularly stressed state, there is a continuous drip of cortisol into the blood stream, which can have damaging effect on blood vessels and organs such as the heart & lungs. This can lead to heart disease and diabetes which we are all too familiar with these days.For me, understanding about the physical effects of stress has made dealing with it much easier. Why we have normalised it in our language though, has been challenging for me. Now when I hear someone say they are stressed, I believe it’s a warning sign that something is going to happen . Why wait to do something about it?