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Boiling Frogs

Posted on May 6, 2012 at 6:20 AM

[Please note: Any case studies/people which may be mentioned in this blog are composites (unless otherwise indicated) of personal and professional experience over 25 years of people-helping in a number of different capacities and circumstances. Resemblance to any specific individual, living or dead, is purely coincidental and totally unintentional.]

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Just how stressed are you? Do you know? Think about it... on a scale of 1 - 100, 1 being so laid back people think you're dead, and 100 being so stressed out you wish you were dead, where do you fall? Is your current stress level "normal" for you? Is it unusually high for some reason? (If you've got a 'mellow' groove going on right now, don't read any further.) 


We're generally pretty bad at gauging our own stress level. Apparentlly, it's like the frog-in-hot-water thing. By the time we actually comprehend that we're suffering stress-related health issues, it's too late. We're waaaaaaay passed the point at which we should have turned off the heat and gotten out of the water.  We all know that some stress is necessary or we'd all be at home, lounging in our pajamas or at the beach, surfing. Stress gets us up and moving. Too much stress, however, and we're demotivated, and inclined to implode, collapsing in on ourselves, becoming less and less efficient.


 Really. Too much stress is nasty. Stress related issues include high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic pain disorders (i.e., Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), anxiety, depression, and now, there appears to be a link between chronic stress and infertility.


Ouch.


DeLongis, Folkman, and Lazarus [1988] did a study on stress because they theorized that stress is blamed for a lot of ills, but there didn't seem to be any longitudinal studies on stress which might actually establish a causal link between the evils of stress and ill health. Following the same 75 couples for six months, these researchers had each couple complete 20 assessments in total. To sum up ten pages of dry numbers (means, medians, and methods) they found a "...significant relationship between daily stress and the occurrence of both concurrent and subsequent health problems such as flu, sore throat, headaches, and backaches." This study is from 1988! Twenty-four years later, we're still not very good at recognizing the impact of chronic stress on our daily functioning.

 

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. "Blorft" is an adjective I just made up that means 'Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.' I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” ~ Tina Fey, Bossypants


Some interesting facts - North Americans have fewer vacation days per year than their European counterparts (approximately 14 days per year in America to 20 in Europe), however, the average American closes out his/her work year with 3 - 5 days of vacation unused. Canadians are the same. We don't use all the vacation time allotted to us, but we use every single sick day we're entitled to, and more. How weird is that? Both forms of time off are paid, and yet we apparently can't manage to give ourselves permission to take a vacation day when we need it! Stress-related absenteeism costs employers and the economy almost a billion dollars a year in lost productivity. High stress jobs have a much higher turnover rate leading to loss of expertise and increased costs for recruitment. At home, chronic stress can be a factor in mood disorders, anger issues, relationship conflict, and suicide.


What's wrong with this picture?


What makes it so difficult for us to take care of ourselves? Self-care is really not that hard, but the simple truth is, we just don't do it. In a fast paced, high stress world, often the only "wiggle" room we have is the time we spend on ourselves. So, like the frog in the water, we give away our "me" time here and there, and then a little every day Suddenly, the water's boiling, we no longer have the energy to jump, and so we croak.


Don't get boiled alive. Take this stress test, and pay attention to the results. If you don't like the results of that particular test, you can seek a second opinion - here, here, or here.  


If your stress level is higher than it should be, turn down the heat. Find some time for yourself. Make a date with a friend. Go for a massage. Don't go in to the office this weekend. Hug your spouse, play with your chldren. Read a book. Take a digital holiday and put your phones, iPad, Android - all those gadgets - in the sock drawer. Go to the movies or try that new yoga class. Choose to take care of yourself. More stress relieving ideas here, here, & here.


“Stress is the trash of modern life; we all generate it but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.” ~ Danzae Pace

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