Stress = Force X Area
That’s how physics defines stress. But how about the stress outside of Physics? The stress of the other kind?
Stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event.
That’s a simplistic definition of stress in daily life. Now, shouldn’t all this talk about force and pressures make us think?
As champions of freedom, we clearly do not like to be forced into doing things we do not want to. We also hate it when faced with pressures - no matter where they come from. But despite our loathing, stress is a reality of our lives. Look at the definition again and on a general level, it refers to the sources of stress - situations or life events. They may be so on a general level, but on a more specific level, they are rarely the same for two individuals.
Back to general sources - in theory, since we all loathe stress, shouldn’t the situations or life events be limited only to those over which we have no control? Wouldn’t it be logical that the only situations or life events causing stress to you are the tormenting Acts of God or tormenting acts of other people?
While it may be logical, sadly it isn’t true.
I believe a lot of these situations or life events causing us stress are of our own making. On occasion, we run straight into a wall even with our eyes wide open! We just don’t see it.
Let me demonstrate with a couple of situations or life events we find ourselves in.
First situation: A high pressure daily routine.
Wake up… gym… drive to work… work… drive back… family… dinner… sleep… wake up again… In the pre-COVID days, this was the unceasing cycle for five-days-a-week for most professionals. No wonder we waited so eagerly for Friday and started moaning about Monday right after the Sunday lunch. COVID lockdowns might have paused this cycle but I wouldn’t be surprised if this cycle starts again to haunt us.
Second situation: Our voluntary participation in the rat race.
The need to get a better car, a fancier address, a sexier holiday… the rat race of vanity never ends. Or more accurately - the moment one rat wins, another race begins.
Interestingly, a rat can win most of these races directly or indirectly by spending more money than the other rats. When in a rat race, the ability to spend is a proxy for one’s ability to earn. And the highest ability to earn makes one the fastest rat in the race. While this race itself is stressful, a disconnect between the actual spending and actual earning of the rat creates other sources of stress (like credit card bills, or a ripped savings umbrella for a rainy day).
While there may be other situations, I am pretty sure that these two most adequately convey our ability to self-inflict stressful situations or life events.
I think I will stop my sermon here and not attempt to offer solutions. Everyone’s circumstances are way too unique and I am too small to even think myself worthy. This is just a small attempt at a mini-self-awareness and at exhorting a dialogue - even if with yourself.
And before you go, click here for my short story Go Up on the related topic. Your feedback to this blog and the story is welcome.