In today’s spotlight I want to take on the question, “Does it really matter?” Think about all the issues we are presented with in our everyday life. When you list them in your head you will find that, perhaps you are concerned about the traffic between home and work, or the coffee you spilled on your shirt or blouse, or some lying politician, or a flood in a foreign land. Then ask yourself, “Does it really matter to you in the here and now?” Is there anything you can do about it? How do these concerns make you feel?
Stress as Communicable
I recently posted a new science study that demonstrated stress is communicable. That is, as the researchers put it, the stress of others can change your brain. Quoting an article that appeared in Science News, “In a new study in Nature Neuroscience, Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary have discovered that stress transmitted from others can change the brain in the same way as a real stress does . . . (Further) Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses including PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression,” says Bains, professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and member of the HBI. “Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be ‘contagious’. Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known.” 1
Not only can the stress of another change your brain, it can impact your gut as well. Social stressors have a larger impact than you might think. Quoting again, “We found that even a single exposure to social stress causes a change in the gut microbiota, similar to what is seen following other, much more severe physical stressors, and this change gets bigger following repeated exposures,” said Dr. Kim Huhman, Distinguished University Professor of Neuroscience at Georgia State.” 2
Think about that for a moment, if you allow the day’s news, or the traffic gridlock your caught in, or the angry drivers, or the screaming children, and/or any number of daily so-called stressors to stress you, then you are in effect infecting all of those around you. Is that what you would do if you had a nasty flu virus?
In Search of Stress?
We don’t tend to go hunting a flu virus but we do often hunt stressors. We open Facebook and without much of a delay find a post that riles us up, “How can someone be so stupid?” This is but one of a myriad of matters that we hunt, consciously or unconsciously, that create stress. Perhaps our motivation in seeking out these stressors is our way of showing the world we know better, we’re exceptional, smarter, more caring and/or so forth.
Then there are those stressors we find fun. The horror movies, the crazy inverted carnival rides, etc. Why do we chase these things? Perhaps Freud is correct—we chase them so we can know we’re alive—it’s the Thanatos urge that drives us.
Realizing that stressors are contagious adds a new dimension to how we deal with stress. Maybe, just maybe, we should actively commit to becoming somewhat impervious to stress. We could choose to minimize the stressors, reframe how we view the stressors, seek internal refuge from their clamor, even adapt a more stoic attitude toward life.
My thoughts anyway.
- University of Calgary. 2018. “Is Your Stress Changing My Brain?” ScienceDaily, 8 March 2018.
- Georgia State University. 2018. “Social Stress Leads To Changes In Gut Bacteria.” ScienceDaily, 8 March 2018.