Being told to reduce the stress in our lives is largely falling on deaf ears. Modern life is stress. There's no escape from the external pressures (technically known as "stressors") that make everyone's existence too fast-paced, too exhausting, and too demanding.
Asking people to have less stress is like asking fish to have less water. Mentally, we can try to shrug off stress because it's so prevalent, but our bodies aren't so malleable in their responses. Even an experience that might seem totally positive, like winning the lottery or going on vacation, can trigger the same stress hormones as negative events.
Most people accept that stress is harmful, excepting highly competitive types who claim to thrive on it. An adrenaline junkie might rush to skydive, free-climb a rock face without ropes, or wrestle an alligator with the positive reinforcement of media coverage that glorifies the rush of a thrill-seeking life. But medical science disagrees.
The surge of stress hormones — principally adrenaline and cortisol, which carry the stress response forward — can be interpreted by the body as a thrill. Then, the physiological reality is hidden from sight. These hormones lead to cascade of reactions, including elevated heart rate and blood pressure, intended to prepare your body to handle threatening conditions. When prolonged and repeated, the stress response starts to damage tissues and organs throughout the body.
An old joke says, "Gray hair is inherited. You get it from your children." The science shows that it turns both ways. We may care a great deal more about how stress will get passed on in our families than at work. But the best approach in both places is the same: become a healer of stress. Your behavior today is likely to have consequences far into the future.
When you have an awareness that you aren't just the victim of stress but a potential source, your behavior changes. Here are some positive choices to relieve the stress around you at work that can be applied to relationships and family as well.