Stress will kill you if you don’t kill it


You notice how the initial “S” of “stress” skewers the human character like a dagger. It’s not just that stress is harmful to your health. The impact of the image is in showing the character as utterly powerless. Here’s why it’s so important to pay attention to this.

Underlying stress is the enormous surge in energy coming from the ‘fight or flight’ response. Under the ‘natural’ conditions in which this evolved, it was all good: In case of danger, the animal’s resources were all mobilized to give it the energy and focus needed for an all-out fight, or running for its life. The actual fight (or flight) used up all of that energy, and all it took for the animal to feel restored was to rest.

In civilized life, all of this energy is mobilized but usually has no place to go. The kinds of situations we face are usually not ones that we can solve by burning up our extra energy in an all-out fight or a desperate flight. We essentially have to sit on our hands while all this energy is coursing in our organism, disorganizing us instead of helping us. As we don’t have a place to discharge this energy, we have a sense of imploding. We are poisoned by toxic energy.

In other words: It is important to not confuse ‘fight or flight’ with stress. The two happen to go hand in hand in our civilized lives because we cannot easily make use of that extra energy. But it is not the extra energy that is toxic per se, it is our powerlessness to do something with it.

The antidote to stress is to find ways to regain power, to harness that energy instead of being fried by it.

Image from ‘Lug Nuts’ comic strip by J.C. Duffy 5/19/16