Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Life of Stress

A lobster is born with a shell but its shell doesn't grow with it. Pretty soon the shell is too tight and the lobster feels uncomfortable with it, so the lobster goes under a rock naked and vulnerable and grows itself another shell.

In some time, even that shell becomes too small and the lobster feels uncomfortable. Again it does under a rock, creates a new shell and comes back.

This happens again and again, and keeps happening until the day the lobster dies.

Now if the lobster could go to a doctor and get some pills to not feel uncomfortable and in duress, it would never grow into what it could if it had tried using that strain to its benefit. You need to be under stress and feel uncomfortable to actually make changes.

Most of the daily stress we face isn't related to survival anymore, and yet that's how we respond to them. By going into overdrive, overthinking the situation and obsessing over it. This is the threat response to stress. It makes you choke up inside, a sense of impending doom shrouds your body and you feel unable to relax in any scenario.

But there's another response to stress. One that makes you more focused, streamlines your thought processes. Your heart pounds ever so loudly, but instead of increasing paranoia and dread, it embiggens your blood vessels so there's a more even blood flow. This is the challenge response to stress and it basically makes you smarter under duress.

Unless it's a crazy specific situation where survival is of the umpteenth importance, a threat response doesn't help us any more than hyperventilating helps during a panic attack. But to transform our response from threat to challenge, we need to understand which one our body instinctually goes to. Instead of sweeping everything under the rug and trying to distract ourselves as much as possible, a brief moment of confrontation and planning against the stress does more good.

If you feel your heart starting to pound faster, and your breath getting shallower by each passing drag, instead of focusing on trying to calm down and pretending to be okay, accepting that you are stressed out turns the threat response to a challenge one. And sometimes, the best way to deal with it is to not think about it. Not the fact that you're stressed, but the more probable scenario that the cause isn't all that powerful.

Stress isn't good or bad for you, the response to it is. 


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