Stressed out about stress?

Patrick is stressed. His boss just assigned him a new project, his email inbox is full of unread emails, and the deadline for an important quote is tomorrow. On top of that, his phone is always ringing. “What I would give to be on a remote island all by myself!” he groans as the volume in his open layout office rises beyond all measure.

When he gets home late once again, Miriam is already standing in the kitchen. The corners of her mouth are curled up in a mocking smile. “You were supposed to take care of dinner three hours ago.” Patrick slumps together. “That too yet” he sighs as a hot wave of anger rises up inside of him...

Nowadays, a lot of people find themselves in similar situations as Patrick. Daily stressors such as deadlines, noise, excessive stimulation, or permanent availability via email, cell phone, or messenger, can lead to a continuous release of stress hormones. What follows is similar to an internal mobilization for battle: within a few fractions of a second, heart rate and breathing accelerate, muscles tense, and the brain races desperately to find options for relief or resolution.. We are always plugged in.

Since the early beginning of mankind, stress has been the human body’s response to situations that allow only two possible reactions: fight or flight. Nowadays, however, we can’t use either option to rid ourselves of our internal tension. Stressful situations thus often end in verbal outbursts, like in Patrick and Miriam’s situation.

However, if we are unable to reduce long term psychological stress, it can increase the risk of physical effects. These include headaches, stomach pain, as well as immune suppression, or the notorious racing heart.

This situation can only be resolved by interrupting the stress spiral. Thus, in addition to reducing daily workload, athletic activities are also effective in releasing excess energy. Sometimes it can even be helpful to unleash a stream of swearwords. In addition, consuming enough fluids as well as a balanced vitamin an nutrient rich diet can also support the body during stressful situations and therefor increase the capacity for action.

Earlier, after a spat with Miriam, Patrick would have fled onto the balcony with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. All this to calm himself down first! Later, full of remorse, he would have ordered a pizza and watched multiple episodes of Miriam’s favorite television show with her until late into the night.

But, careful: these habbits (including smoking, drinking alcohol, inadequate sleep, and unbalanced diet) do NOT help reduce stress! On the contrary, from a long-term perspective these habbits can further reduce a person’s ability to cope with stress. Luckily, Patrick recognized this in time. Now he goes for a run after work and maintains a nutritious diet. He hasn’t thought of cigarettes for a long time, and his aggressive behaviors are restricted to a minimum. He simply feels better overall. Now, if he can only manage to remember his next dinner with Miriam, nothing should go wrong...