Chronic stress has been linked to just about everything that’s wrong with our health today. And it’s all true. It is common that most of us have chosen chronic stress as a way of life. Just walk into any of our new, multi-tasked workplaces, visit you local small business or own a constantly blinking smartphone. We wear 60-70 hour work weeks as a badge of honor and feel as if we didn’t stress ourselves then we are not succeeding.
It is clear that some stress is natural. It allows us to react to life threatening stimulus by speeding up the heart and allowing more blood flow to handle a predatory escape. But what might not be known is that this state also turns off our daily maintenance processes such as healing, memory and even our immune system. Chronic stress disables our ability to self-repair itself and in many cases can cause long term health issues and even shortened life spans.
When learning about how researcher Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University neurobiologist, has spent the past 30 years studying the various forms of stress on a number of baboon communities, he has uncovered one idea that resonated with me the most. His examples of hierarchal differences in his studies have proven that the alpha or dominate mammals showed less stress hormones than any other member of the tribe. This direct correlation to dominance was shown in the health of the individual as well. The stressed subordinate baboons reflected low levels of confidence, extra weight and less brain activity as they were tormented daily by dominant members. They ultimately suffered from chronic stress from within the community.
To corroborate Sapolsky’s findings, a similar study was done with the British Civil Service. While examining this organization, two factors were important. They all used the same healthcare and they were subjected to a hierarchal organization similar to the baboons. As you might expect, the dominate or high level personnel showed little stress or health issues in a year as the many of the lower subordinates countered with high levels of stress and frequent health issues.
All the research shown has pointed to stress (and health) being in direct alignment with our perceived social status.
Can social media help change our perceptions on life and ultimately reduce stress ? Yes, I believe so.
As individuals, we now have the chance to participate in the world and share our lives and more importantly our stressors. In essence, our social status equalizes as the growth of communities are naturally built to provide stability and mental health which helps negate the issues caused by stress, in respect to time. Our individual voices have never been as loud as they are now and it’s an opt in society.
Stress is obviously not our enemy, but we should not live our lives under chronic stress. After all, it’s clear that stress can be in many forms and some of us thrive on it. Many of us have all paid a price to be hauled to the top of a hill and felt the ‘stress’ as we shot down the rails into spins and heart throbbing turns. Some of us call this excitement. Some of us call this ‘fear’.