Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Work Stress Can Kill You...But Try Not To Worry

A twelve year long British study involving 10,000 subject has concluded that work-related stress can kill. I'm not talking about the the quiet guy that always seemed so nice and talked to his plants snapping and going postal kind of lethal work stress. Sure we've all heard for a long time that stress is unhealthy, that's a no brainer. The significance of this study is that it is one of the first to actually link the stress to real biological changes to the body.

One of the findings that I thought particularly interesting was that "stressed workers had...higher-than-normal levels of cortisol, a "stress" hormone that provides a burst of energy for a fight-or-flight response." Gee, there's that fight or flight response again. I know I've said this before but it bears repeating. Modern human lifestyles are fighting our evolutionary background. We're still physically hardwired for primitive reactions that served us well in helping to keep the species alive. Now those same primitive reactions in a sense, are killing us. Back in the day if a guy was in danger and the fight or flight response was primed by his endocrine system which filled his body with "stress" hormones - he actually got to fight or flee. Now the saber-toothed tiger is your asshole of a boss. The hostile caveman from the neighboring clan is the schmuck from Acquisitions that's citing regulations to deny your request to buy STRESS BALLS to use to promote your employee assistance counseling program (yeah, that one's real, do I sound bitter?). We walk around constantly primed to fight or flee but we never get the chance to do it. Hormones are the chemicals that control the system. If you mess with the chemicals, you mess with the system.

On top of that good news, the Wall Street Journal ran an article the other day reporting that "Researchers at Yale have identified a gene mutation for rumination..." No, that's not a disorder that makes people think they're cows. It's "the kind of chronic worry in which people obsess over negative thoughts." The gene is "a variation of a gene known as BDNF that's active in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in thinking and memory." BDNF? Hmmm. Maybe we can use that as a mantra to relax when we start to worry about something. BDNF...BDNF...Big Deal Numb Fuck...

Actually, the thing that caught me in this article was that "the discovery adds to a growing body of evidence that depression involves an inability to control negative thoughts, not just excess emotion." I can speak to this from experience. Given the content of this article I would guess off the top of my head that I have this gene. I've been taking antidepressants for a few years. Now I'm a pretty happy guy. Back then, not so much. Now I have a lot to be happy about. Back then, I still had a lot to be happy about. The difference? Serious problems at work threw me into a serious, full-blown funk. I began wrestling with negative thought patterns. No, wrestling sounds too collegial - something you could get a gold medal for. This was like one of the battle scenes in Braveheart or Lord of the Rings. I still lapse into this way of thinking to a much lesser extent and probably always will but now it's more like a slap fight and I can put those thoughts in time out pretty quickly. Back then, they were kicking my ass. Once it starts you get locked inside your own head in a vicious cycle of negativity, playing out scenarios that haven't happened, and won't happen, then get stressed out and pissed off about them. You actually get angry about something that hasn't happened or more often primed to be angry then direct it at little things that have nothing to do with it. I say cycle but actually, it's a spiral, and it heads down. They say that thoughts become things. Well, if you swirl around the drain long enough and you're always negative, and you act like an ass most of the time, the interesting thing is that those scenarios that play out in your head become self-fulfilling prophesies. So yeah, I think these scientists are right on the money with this one.

The key is, as with many problems, realizing what's going on and finding a way to break the cycle. You gotta find your happy thought...and maybe find a Woolly Mammoth to hunt.


Mike said...

I have always felt that parts of our body have not evolved to keep up with the rest in these modern times. Basically we still have all the same emotions and drives that our cavemen ancestors did and now we have to expend so much energy trying to suppress those emotions.

I had a brush with panic attacks back in the spring. I learned that not all things can be controlled with happy thoughts. It took some serious drugs to get those things under control. With a little help from the drugs I was able to get the upper hand on them. Those were some pretty scary times.

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Very true Mike. And the happy thoughts...they didn't start coming until AFTER the drugs, so yeah, I know what you mean.

Kitty said...

Depression sucks. It robs us not only of our 'happy thoughts' but also of our basic equilibrium, along with the ability to help ourselves. I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy. Oh hang on a minute ... actually it might do him good. ;-) x

Bruce, a work in progress said...

I'd have to agree with that. Him, huh? Would that be "he who no longer resides"?

BBC said...

I don't get depressed, I get pissed.

Shoot, I thrive on stress. Guess I'm just wired that way, and I think it's a good thing.

Not that I haven't been stressed before, but I get away from those situations, I've been known to quit a job in a heartbeat.

Malach the Merciless said...

That is why I bring firearms to work.

Hungry Mother said...

I'm convinced that so much of how we feel is do to our body chemistry. We can't just "suck it up" the way Tom Cruise and other assholes would tell us. Sometimes, we must have our chemistry adjusted by drugs. I have to take an Allopurinol tablet daily so I won't get a gout attack. Others have to take an antidepressant for their mental well-being.

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Mal, at the time when I had the problems at work I really was wishing that firearms were an option.

HM, yor're right. You do what you have to do to find balance - physically, mentally, emotionally.

moooooog35 said...

I work in the postal service.

I don't get stressed.

Anonymous said...

I would never make it in the work force these days!

Tequila Mockingbird said...

maybe i should just be unemployed. but that might stress me out too. i'd make a hot panhandler though. "will pole dance for booze money" is what my sign would say.

Malicious Intent said...

The stress/health factor is true and I have known that for years. My body has taken a serious ass-whoppin from years of non-stop stress, abuse etc. I wrote a short article for our newsletter, I'll post here...I think it is something we all need to learn to do so we can survice this rat race.
This article will provide a little peak into the world of M.I. But the message is, simplify things. Easier said than done of course!

Just Say No:

My son was diagnosed back in 1995. Of course, initially it was pretty traumatizing. But after time I settled into a routine with him and his school and started to realize that this was not just a disability brought on to our family, but a new lifestyle. Looking at it in that light, I was able to dive into doing volunteer work meeting and befriending some pretty incredible folks. We still ride the rollercoaster of ups and downs but you learn that the downs don’t last forever and you can proceed with life as planned. Oh, and the word “normal” is so over rated.

One of the ways that I have learned to cope with things over the years (specifically with the challenges one brings with "Insert disablity of choice here") is to keep things simple! We live in a world that moves at a constant pace of; fast or faster, large or supersize, all or more, now not tomorrow. It is a pretty confusing and fast paced mess at times, and if I feel that way, I can only imagine how my son with (insert disablity of choic here) must feel.

So to help keep myself and my family grounded, we try hard to simplify things where possible. Do I have to go to every social function we are invited to? No. Do I have to have the “Martha Stewart” house? No. Is it really that important to have the best looking garden in the neighborhood? No. Does my typical son have to take piano, karate and baseball? No, No and No. One of those fine activities will do. Is there anything wrong with the family taking a break from the outside world by taking a weekend and staying in, watching some movies and eating some popcorn and just relaxing? NO!

I think the bottom line is that we don’t have to do it all. But I believe a lot of us are afraid to say No. No is not always a bad word. No is a way for you and your family to state your boundaries and limitations. I think if we all said No more on things that we really do not need to do, we will get a whole lot more YES in our lives.

Malicious Intent said...

You have been tagged. You can read what I wrote on my blog.

Come on down.....

Phoenix Rose
Bruce Almighty
Skye Writing
Tongue In Check
Mutterings of a Mad Bookseller

So do I now say, "Tag, you're it??"

Rules of the game:

1) Link to the person that tagged you.

2) Post the rules on your blog.

3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.

4) Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.

5) Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

pissed off patricia said...

With all the daily stresses we are also burdened by our government telling us to be "afraid" at all times. Life shouldn't be like that for anyone.

My happy thought is that you now have more happy thoughts than bad ones. :)

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Mooooog, I'm glad to hear that. Hey, what do you have in that duffel bag?

Prepo, yeah you're right. You're livin' the easy life. Stayin' home. Raisin' six kids. No stress there :-)

TM, I'm sure you'd be wealthy in no time.

MI, I couldn't agree more with your article. That's pretty much how we live. We have always eaten dinner around the table with the TV OFF and we all love those lazy stay in evenings or weekends watching movies or playing games (well, some of us like the games more than others).
And on your other comment...OH NO YOU DIDN'T! Damn girl, thanks a bunch.

POP, yes the government certainly doesn't help. Big brother constantly reminding us to watch out for the boogie man. Thanks for your happy thought. The martini didn't hurt either. Vodka, dirty, with three olives - stuffed with blue cheese if you have them. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

In our life time, each one of us as humans, experience fear, anger, envy, sadness, insecurity and many other negative emotions and thoughts. These thoughts turn us into fearful people with doubts and insecurity. All these emotions and thoughts cover our real, beautiful inner nature.

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