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Ryan Niese

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We have become such conscious beings that we now over complicate stress which used to be a simple subconscious survival mechanism.

We are not teaching our bodies to react with our mind, we are retraining ourselves to not over think our physical coping mechanisms to life.

Two things in Kelly's talk got me thinking about the roots of this:
1. Stress is the body's way of overcoming the stressor.
2. Human interaction is a natural desire that helps stress.
First off, why would we think of stress as bad when it's purpose is to help us? Kelley McGonigal has stated it and biology states it, stress is the body's way to react to a challenge. Who would want to compete with this natural reaction? By saying our mind has the power to create a positive affect from stress is to say that stress is a negative reaction. But as stated, it has been a positive response and we have to rediscover how to work with that response.
Regarding our desire for human interaction; it seems like a very animal like response. When we look at the response to stress in animals such as monkeys (that's very broad because I'm speculating) I have a feeling very few of them break down and start pulling their hair out. The natural response as Kelly mentioned is to seek help. In an animal pack that is exactly what will happen while in the human world social interaction has become so much more complex that reaching out for help could show signs of weakness and cause embarrassment.
So why do we compete with stress? I believe this is because humans have been trained out of it; we've brushed our natural response to stress aside as we've become more dominant as a race and as we've made more and more technological advances.

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  • Sep 21 2013: I don't think primitive people got accustomed to stress, and everything was fine. See sociological study called "Future Shock", published about 30 years ago. Lots of charts, etc. showing that we are all living with constantly increasing stress levels as the years go by. The worst part of it is, the people get even more stressed if there doesn't appear to be any way out of it. PTSD is basiclly caused by unremitting stress. My theory is, a lot of craziness we see more and more often, like mass shootings, is merely the spreading of such stressfulness into ordinary life, where formerly it was mostly soldiers reacting that way. Now it is common. And the reason seems to be partly many the "Improvement s" of the last hundred years. (Even changes for the better are stressful., like job changes) Certainly the wiping out of the blue collar middle class is stressful., Expect more shootings. Cutting Foods Stamps, etc. may help "the Economy", i.e. Bankers bottom lines, but it is very stressful for everyone else.
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    Sep 14 2013: I do not know the history of psychiatry but imagine that someone invented the word stress to remove the stigma of the word 'fear. Stress is fear - fear of looking stupid, fear of failure, fear of heights, fear of starving, fear of being killed... Stress has become medicalised, but fear exists in every species. Humans societies of all faiths and political persuasions have built elaborate systems to pacify their citizens via education and social conditioning - civilisation in other words.... So fear has been reduced ... but what remains is internalised and has no outlet.

    You only have to look at the trouble-spots around the world today to see how the human animal behaves when fear is allowed to be expressed un-checked. And look at the returning soldiers from war-zones, mentally scarred by PTSD with a catastrophic suicide rate. Their courage - facing their fear and 'doing it anyway' - is expected by everyone else... and yet who honestly could say they could display that level of courage even for one hour? Not many of us I'll bet.
    • Sep 21 2013: 2s: No, "Fear" is not a good term.. Too negative. Besides, lots of situations where one gets keyed up , like before a game, are pleasurable, but still "Stress".
  • Sep 10 2013: I believe we always have had stress/anxiety but today we do not have the releases that were available to release the stress.
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      Sep 11 2013: For example?? What releases are you thinking of?
      • Sep 11 2013: Because the world was more physical, people had that release. Also, the the western movement of the population, driven by free land, and escaping the stress of the environment.
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          Sep 15 2013: Do you think that exercise.....movement might improve the stress situation today?

          Also, by 'western movement', do you mean to say that the fact that people got to escape their former life by moving out west they were able to escape stress?..........If that's what you mean, then, what about all the danger on those trails?
      • Sep 15 2013: Yup, for me physical activity helps relieve stress and anxiety and have talked to others that this seems to help.

        The "escape" by moving West put people into different environment and could well change the stress.
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          Sep 15 2013: I will agree with the movement/exercise part.

          As for the movement out west.....for me it's a toss up.

          There was so much danger involved in this "change of environment", so much death, disease, and troubles (droughts, fire, Indians etc.....) that I cannot say that it would relieve stress..........on the contrary, it would give them a new set of issues to be anxious over.

          Although, I do think that in general, a change of environment often does individuals under stress a lot of good.............a long walk on the beach, a weekend escape into the mountains, etc....
  • Sep 9 2013: It is true that perhaps in the past, people were not so stressed out as they are now. This could either be an exaggeration of what they really are feeling, or, it could just be that the "stress" and pressure we are facing now is greater than those faced by people in the past as well as animals. I'm sure that two centuries ago, people would not have had to worry about their company's sales going down. Monkeys surely do not need to tear their hair out because they failed to get the marks they expected, etc. I think that we ourselves have complicated our lives to the extent that stress, which used to be a normal survival mechanism (a life saver!), is now very often the cause of death (depression and suicidal). I hope my comments and ideas were valuable, thank you.
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    Sep 8 2013: I think that some people confuse stress with anxiety.
    What do you think?
    • Sep 8 2013: Yes Mary, I think you're correct.
      I've been taught (in therapy) that stress is the physiological reaction to anxiety, which is the result of negative thinking.
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        Sep 9 2013: Thank you Leigh for your reply.

        I find anxiety to be a bit normal........because a lot of things happen to us and to those around us, and of course we may very well worry in excess and end up suffering from stress.

        So then, from what I think, and what you have explained, if the culprit to stress, is excessive attention to anxieties of life, then can something be done?

        How can we reduce the feeling of being anxious?

        Any ideas?
        • Sep 9 2013: negative thinking is normal too...have you heard of the 3 principles?

          You can't force yourself not to be stressed just like you can't force your mind not to think negatively. They are both normal depending on what level of consciousness you are in.
        • Sep 9 2013: Hi Mary,

          I agree - anxiety is very normal. Everyone experiences it and it serves to protect us in certain situations as well.

          It becomes problematic when the level of anxiety is high enough to interrupt a person's daily functioning and/or manifests itself in dangerous/unhealthy behaviour.

          There are many reasons why anxiety can reach this level.

          During my hospital stays and then consequent group and individual therapy, I was/am taught about the theories behind anxiety as well as the theories behind the strategies that I was/am taught to use to try to reduce it.

          My problem right now is, that I've been given so much information over the years that I can't possibly tell you everything that I've learned.

          I can tell you that CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is the main therapy I've been taught. Briefly, it looks at how our Automatic Negative Thoughts influence our emotions which also influence our behaviour. It's finding out where these ANT have come from that is the important part - we learned about "Irrational Beliefs" that we have built up over the years that drive a lot of our thinking without us realising it and also the "Cognitive Distortions" we employ when we think about situations which lead us to such high levels of anxiety.

          We also learned about how the brain "works" in relation to anxiety - we talked about the Amygdala and Brain Plasticity among other things - all very interesting. Group Therapy was like being back at Uni again - the theory part of the day was always my favourite!

          We learned so much more about each of the above concepts, as well as others.

          But I haven't really answered your question, Mary.

          Maybe give me some time and I'll try to summarise a few things for you :)
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        Sep 9 2013: Lee, what you have written is very interesting.

        I am 'somewhat' familiar with the information, but not with the precise technical terminology you have used.

        You know, we accumulate so much information throughout our years of life Lee, that it is sometimes impossible to share in a cohesive way with others every thing we have cataloged in our mind......I totally get what you are saying.

        The point that I truly find fascinating, and which I would like to read about more, is "how the brain works in relation to anxiety".......any links that you can provide, will be very much appreciated.

        Let me ask you this............don't you think that sometimes anxiety and stress are also related to depression? And to unsolved issues from a person's past? What can you tell me about this?

        Thank you for the exchange thus far Lee, I really appreciate it.
        • Sep 10 2013: Hi Mary,

          I also found the information that we learned about our brain and the way it functions fascinating - I didn't have any knowledge of it before I was hospitalised! (btw - our Private Psychiatric Hospitals are wonderful, but that's another story)

          I will certainly write more about it and provide some links for you when I return later today.

          For now - anxiety/stress and depression are most definitely related - comorbid depression and anxiety are very common. (Comorbid = exist together)

          For me, personally, if I do happen to decrease my level of anxiety about a particular subject, I sometimes then fall into a depressive state - can't win, hey! My doctor has told me this is because my anxiety actually masks my depression.

          Issues from the past - another definite! This actually ties in with the function of our brain.

          When I return I'll be happy to explain in more detail what I'm talking about.

          Leigh :)
        • Sep 10 2013: Hi Mary,

          I’ve attempted to explain some of what I was taught about the brain and its role in anxiety, below :)

          Our brains look for patterns. On the positive side, this is a survival technique. After encountering a dangerous situation (we) our brains remember to keep away from it if we encounter the same situation again. On the negative side though, this search for patterns can cause us to perceive relationships between completely unrelated events, which can cause anxiety. (For example: you don’t receive an invitation from a friend for her upcoming birthday and you immediately think this is because you forgot to help her out with something last week, so you link the events together and conclude that she must be mad at you. In reality, though, she hadn’t sent any of the invitations yet as something of urgency had come up for her.)

          Once negative patterns are formed in our brains, they are strengthened over time by any input (experiences) that confirm them. Neurones, synapses and neurotransmitters all play a part in this. They are physical structures which are formed as a result of our thoughts, emotions etc. These connections can be weakened, however, by forming new ones with positive experiences that invalidate these negative ones.

          continued . . .
        • Sep 10 2013: cont . . .

          Furthermore, we can become hyper-vigilant and try to protect ourselves from the anxiety caused by negative experiences, which in turn causes more anxiety. For example, people who have formed abandonment issues as a result of childhood experiences, might as adults continually look for signs of rejection from others and will often misinterpret the words, tone of voice, facial expressions and/or actions of others as being ones of rejection. As you can imagine, this makes all kinds of relationships extremely difficult for both the anxious person as well as the other person/people in the relationships. (Patients with such issues may even think their own therapists are trying to reject them.)

          Joseph Ledoux has developed theories about how the part of the brain called the Amygdala plays a significant role in the establishment of our fear responses. He talks about the "high road" and the "low road" in relation to our reactions to our experiences. Here’s a link to explain this in detail http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/fear1.htm

          Basically, people with anxiety disorders tend to take the "low road" - our brain continually evaluates experiences as potentially threatening, bypasses the pre-fontal cortex where reasoning occurs and then sets up the fight, flight or freeze response, which we experience as anxiety. Once again, people's life experiences apparently affect the working of the Amygdala. For example, if you are brought up in a situation where you are constantly or even inconsistently in a state of fear (in reference to rational fear responses to realistically frightening situations) your Amygdala gets such a work out, that it becomes your default setting, so that even as an adult, your Amygdala assumes that many situations you find or might find yourself in ("what if" ing) have a very good chance of being "dangerous" to the self and so it habitually becomes triggered, causing anxiety on a regular basis.

          I hope you find this interesting.

          Leigh :)
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        Sep 11 2013: "I hope you find this interesting"..........Oh boy.....did I ever, thank you.

        I found the example in your first section about the birthday party invitations to be very revealing.
        It is so incredible how oftentimes, if we are not careful, we can jump to wrong conclusions and end up undermining our relationships.

        Also interesting is the fact you bring up 'fear' in your information.

        I find that fear is very much connected with anxiety, as well as stress......and depression.

        Another interesting point, and one which I have often wondered about, is the relationship between anxiety and depression. So, in your case, if your anxiety level is low, you may fall into a depressive state? Hmm. And your doctor says that your anxiety masks your depression. Now that is very interesting. I have known individuals who are in a constant state of anxiety, and I have always suspected that down deep they may be suffering from depression. They put so much on their plate at one time.......it's almost like they have to stay very busy, or else they will be forced to think about something they desperately are trying to avoid. That is what I have perceived from the many years of knowing them.

        I will share this with you since you have been so open and honest with me.
        There is a verse in scripture which reads: "Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let YOUR petitions be made known to God;  and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard YOUR hearts and YOUR mental powers by means of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

        Although many individuals do not share my same belief in the scriptures, I find that there are certain points which are mentioned in them, which have helped me personally. This aforementioned one is one such counsel. I find that praying, when I am stressed, helps me quite a bit.

        I thank you for your insights, and honesty, and for the link.
        I will read through it.
        Thanks so much!!

        Mary :)
        • Sep 11 2013: Hi Mary,

          Thank you so much for your kind reply.

          I'll address some of the points you've brought up above a little later on.

          Leigh :)
  • Sep 30 2013: Theodore: You had just expressed the idea that we either manage stress or eliminate it. "Those are the options". I can't see that we are doing eihter one, although there is a lot of talk about it. The only group I can think of who is succeeding in this are the Amish.
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    Sep 13 2013: You've not supplied a great deal to support your conjectures here. Stress can be perceptual, there can be positive levels of stress and negative stress.
    Acknowledging the Power of Positive Stress: Alex Charfen at TEDxRedondoBeach
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXhRAkucIYc

    Negative stress can have profound effects on the body.
    'Stress, Neurodegeneration and Individual Differences' by Robert Sapolsky
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ysG9ay8TAs
    • Sep 14 2013: I understand I have not supplied much support and that is because I personally don't know much about the subject however I appreciate where the comments have gone. I believe Robert Sapolsky stated it perfectly when he states that we are in this realm where we can "...secrete Glucocorticoid merely with thoughts...this capacity to chronically turn on the stress response for reasons of physiological or social stress...this system did not evolve for chronic activation." He says much more but I feel this captures the essence of what I was getting at with my original thought. I'd say regardless of this being a chronic thins, the system did not evolve for as many social triggers as we have in our day and age. This helps me understand that there is such thing as too much/ bad stress and what the biological explanation is for it.
      As for the other talk, its great. I believe these two are brilliantly paired and get at the concepts that i believe to be the true struggle of stress.

      Now I would challenge that much of the bad stress is caused by incorrect or irrational perceptions of our ever growing social lives that we experience today. Stress may be the biological response but the big picture that is all too often over looked is what is causing that stress and if we better identify it can we start to control the stress?
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        Sep 15 2013: I hear that you are saying two things: one can control the amount of stress in one' environment by decreasing it, and/or one can better manage the stress by coping with what cannot be changed.
    • Sep 21 2013: Theodore: wouldn't it be more accurate to say that there are not 2 kinds of stress, but merely degrees that range from stimulating to paralyzing.
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        Sep 21 2013: Stress may be perceived. So there is only the perception of stress. We either manage it or eliminate it. Those are the options. The failure to do either is to suffer the effects of it.
        • Sep 21 2013: Theodore: I take it that you are not a war vet. I have been puzzling over just how a soldier can either manage it or eliminate it, and have come up empty.
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        Sep 21 2013: Did you miss the last part of my statement. "The failure to do either is to suffer the effects of it."
        Now, granted we all have differing capacities for dealing with stress, and part of the conditioning soldiers go through addresses how they will handle stress. But stress needs up taking its toll over the long run in an accumulated fashion, resulting in what was once called "battle fatigue," and now referred to as PTSD.

        See Combat stress reaction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_stress_reaction
        • Sep 29 2013: Theodore: I think you are being wildly optimistic if you think our society is "managing Stress". It is more the case that the Stress is managing US. Old enough to remember the Depression, ,my main memory of those days is, how much more neurotic and out of control people's fears are nowadays , compared to then. Neurotic behavior is one of the symptoms of Battle Fatigue: i.e. over reacting to shadows, and failing to react to real threats. Seems like a good description of American society these days. We are overwhelmed with examples: I don't recall hearing about any mass shootings until 1946, right after WW2; the "War on Terror", about as sensible as the old War on Witches of 300 years ago. The very existence of the TSA . The astounding gullliblity of the public when it comes to accepting nonsensical explanations , or rather, lack of them, for such things as the WTC incidents. The constant emergence of mass shootings by ordinary people, for practically no reasons. Sounds like Battle Fatigue to me. And let us remember, even changes for the Better are stressful.
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        Sep 30 2013: Can you point to where I claim that our society is managing stress?
  • Sep 10 2013: Stress will continue to be a big source of revenue and profits for the medical industry.

    As long as people are willing to pay for stress reduction, stress will be sold as a big problem.
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      Sep 11 2013: Barry, I think that a lot of industries out there receive revenue from stress.......Aromatherapy candle anyone???
  • Sep 10 2013: Hi Dear corvallis,I did watch the talk:How to make stress your friend,it is from Kelly McGonigal.And I tried to translate it from English to Chinese.I will finish it's translation tonight and post it in my blog to share with the idea around.

    I t is really a great talk to help us to recognize how our attitute and mindset about stress to effect our health.Infact there was super powerful idea comes from Tao theory:balancing things in mediation.

    Anyway Here in the talk,Kelly McGonigal talked about stress from science search,it is more convincing for us to know how stress helps us in our life.

    Yes,I do agree on that what u said:we have been trained out of it.It also means what we are learning not true forever,keep critical thinking in life as a habit is good.
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    Sep 10 2013: Ryan, I just reread the OP.

    You state......."in the human world social interaction has become so much more complex that reaching out for help could show signs of weakness and cause embarrassment".

    I somewhat agree with this..........however, don't you think that there are many individuals who are not really aware that they are suffering from stress?

    And where do you see mental illness, and depression in all of this, if I may ask?
    • Sep 14 2013: Mary you've had many good points and I won't cover all of them but I wanted to mention what they've got me thinking. First off, anxiety. That is the answer. When you asked that question I thought instantly that was part of what I was trying to get at. Anxiety maybe is not being confused with stress but maybe people are focusing too much on the reaction (stress) rather than the cause (anxiety). I believe if this thought was added into much of the stress discussion then we'd make huge strides in how to handle stress.
      I'm not sure what you are asking. When I think of stress I think of someone who is a student; stress caused by social pressure and academic. I would be surprised if they are not aware of the fact that they are suffering from stress or "stressing out". What was an example that you were thinking?

      As for the mental illness part, I believe that perception plays a huge role.
      I mean none of this with disrespect to those who may suffer from mental illness. I know very little about mental illnesses and am simply speaking about what I feel is the broader picture.
      The mind controls so many things and if you truly can not come up with positive and encouraging thoughts then your brain will eat its self apart. I feel these mental illnesses stem from and are linked to the same stress that started this conversation; the ever increasing social stress or should I say anxiety? I feel that those who receive professional help with these things learn the truth; anxiety is the true problem. They may become anxious about who will accept them into a social group; once in the group there is anxiety relating to how to remain and what the norms are. And I truly believe these anxieties line up with one definition of anxiety saying the thoughts are usually irrational.
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    Sep 9 2013: @ STEPHANIE WALTERS

    Thank you for your comment below Stephanie.

    Yes, I do agree that negative thoughts are normal.

    No, I have not heard of the 3 principles. Care to enlighten me?

    I do feel that many individuals are able to keep negative thoughts, anxiety, and stress to a bare minimum.
    I feel it is important to be able to use strategies to deal with these three factors, that if left unchecked, can do so much harm to ourselves and others.
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    Sep 9 2013: The origin of the word stress is in the mechanical world where it designates a Force acting upon a component. It is the stress on the string of the yo-yo, or the kite string, which maintains functionality and keeps the object from abandoning its intended application. Proper functioning demands stress. If the Stress level becomes sufficiently high the component will yield and actually take-on an altered configuration. This is called Strain and it causes things to bend, break and generally malfunction. My point? Stress= :-) Strain= :-(
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      Sep 10 2013: I really enjoyed you explaining this mechanical definition of stress........so, in other words, too much stress is not good.
    • Sep 11 2013: Hi Edward,

      I also like your comparison to the mechanical world.

      Just as too much stress will compromise the integrity of the structure of a building, it can do so with the structure of the brain.

      Leigh :)
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        Sep 11 2013: Yes, but so can too little stress lead to failure. Stress has a stabilizing function. Stress keep things from getting rattled to pieces.
  • Sep 9 2013: We have a plethora of things going on What is stress like at work if you belong to a union? What is stress like if there are many alternative jobs and choices? What is stress like in a world filled with high-fructose corn ................ etc.
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    Sep 8 2013: For years, we have been told stress was a very bad stuff in our lives. Before, decades ago, stress has been unknown for the most of people and for many scientists. That's normal, of course. Now, we can look it from new and very interesant perspectives.
    I agree with KM. I have been developing diverse and concrete jobs last years, many of them generating a lot of stress. I knew it, I felt it perfectly, I knew the risk we were informed we were facing up. No harm (apparently) for me. I think jobs with a lot of stress but positive running and results are good, they aren't dangerous or harmful. Frustration and the feeling of being trapped, or having for certain that your job will not have good results, that's a clear bad stress producer.
    Good topic.