what I’m learning about…stress

I recently read an article (in Australian’s Women’s Health Jan 2012) in which a journalist/lifecoach wrote about her (former) addiction to stress.

Stress that comes from being a drama queen. And that’s with a “capital D and capital Q”.

It got me thinking about how much cortisol pumps through my own veins on a daily basis; not in a good way, but through OTT reactions to things such as traffic, coffee queues and thriller-type movies. Things that are totally (or mostly) outside of my realm of control but still cause me a moment of heart-pumping insanity.


For example, Jay often halfheartedly jokes that I should wear my Polar heart rate monitor when driving in peak hour considering how fired up I get.

And after 10 mins in the line for my morning coffee I probably could go without a cup considering the adrenaline that I’ve already produced from my impatient toe-tapping and constant watch checking.

Seriously don’t get me started on scary movies…I get so riled up that Harley starts to fret from feeding off my energy. I literally spend half of the thriller watching it with my fingers in my ears or from the doorway of another room.

It’s not good for my health and even though I know it’s not, I actually don’t do anything conscious to improve my reactions.

Studies have proven the negative impact of stress on our bodies; with highly stressed people often having high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and liver toxicity (I wonder if that’s from drinking too much to cull the stress…) and that stress-related illnesses account for 65% of deaths in America (from ‘natural’ causes). Highly stress people on average die 7 years before those of us with a more phlegmatic outlook.

Australian health insurer Medibank Private wrote a paper (Aug 2008) that claimed that work-related stress costs the economy almost $15billion each year and that workers take on average 3.2 sick days a year because they are unable to cope.

On the 20th December last year; the completion of a particularly long & arduous project, I didn’t actually realise how stressed I was until I burst into tears driving over the Harbour Bridge on my way to pick up Jay from work. I had a mini-panic attack along with the hyperventilating and uncontrollable sobbing. Not a good thing to happen when you’re driving in 6 lanes of peak-hour traffic. I made it Jay and then collapsed into a snotty sobbing heap. He drove me home, ran me a bath and then went to collect dinner (& Harley from daycare). I started to relax in bath but once I got out I projectile vomited all over the bath room and then almost fainted. This is a pretty gross story, so I apologize, but it goes to show what an intense effect stress has on my body. I didn’t realise I’d been harbouring all of that until I could breath a sigh of relief that my difficult project was over.

Whether we realise it or not, stress also comes in the form of empathy. As women, we like to empathise with our girlfriends when they’re having a life crisis. But instead of taking on all of her issues, (and if you’re like me, then obsess over it for days analysing in the hopes of being a problem-solver) we should take a little advice from men who sympathise not empathise. That would be; listen, acknowledge, be the shoulder to cry on and the fellow bad-mouther of evil people, but don’t take it home with you. Remember it’s not your fight and chances are your friend is more than capable of resolving her own issues. We’ve each got enough of our own issues to deal with!

They say that self acknowledgement is the first step to recovery. I am trying not to take things so personally and to stop myself in moments of insanity; to breath deeply before I have a heart attack or get carted off to Bellevue

So with this in mind, I’m going to consciously attempt to reduce my stress this year by not taking work to heart, remember that scary movies are just that – movies, that getting irate in traffic isn’t going to make it go any faster and learn some patience when standing in line for my coffee!

I’m also adopting a new mantra, something that Henry Kissinger once said…There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”