You will hear people tell you how stressed they are as the semester begins to roll. Students on campuses all over the country will start looking at their schedules and their syllabi and it will cause them stress. In fact, during certain parts of the school year, you will see what I like to call the “stress tornado” as papers and projects and midterms and finals come due. It is always tempting to be sucked into this tornado, but let’s stop and see the role that stress actually plays.
What is stress? Stress, first of all, is a response to something that is happening. Many animals experience stress when confronting or fleeing from danger. Human beings have had stress about as long as we have been walking upright. When we were confronted with situations that threatened, us or our families; we have decided to fight or run from the danger. We have also used our larger brains to plan for situations, like building better houses or weapons to protect ourselves from danger.
Stress causes us to take action. A reasonable amount of stress is what gets us out of bed in the morning. People who push themselves to become better basketball players or who want to begin new relationships all have to face stress. They know that they will need to face something difficult, but they believe that the result will be worth it. They believe that their efforts will make a difference and they will be better for facing the danger. What causes this? Stress.
Prolonged exposure to stress causes problems. Our physical bodies are affected by stress. Your heart beats faster, your muscles get access to more blood and you become more aware of your surroundings. In short, it alters your state of consciousness, but it has developed as a limited response to a short-term dangerous situation to get you out of the situation. The stress response you feel was not meant to go on and on. So when you are burdened with perceived or real danger constantly and you cannot get away from it, it starts to take a toll on the body and the mind. It has been linked to heart problems, high blood pressure, susceptibility to infection, skin problems, pain, diabetes and even infertility. (Carlson N. R. (2004). Physiology of behavior, 8th ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon.)
So how is stress like rain?
- It’s going to come to all of us; it’s part of life.
- It is one of the elements that makes things grow.
- Some people try to avoid it at all costs.
- Some people use an umbrella or a raincoat and keep moving.
- People adjust their plans to work around the around it.
- Too much of it is a bad thing for anyone.
- Preparation is the key to handling it well.
So how does one prepare and use stress to their advantage? Keep your eyes open for
Stress (Part II) Managing the Rain