Killer At Large

There is a killer amongst us, and his name is stress.  As stated previously, on more than one occasion, my world journey is also a quest.  A quest for answers.  Now that I am retired, I have both the time and interest to ask pertinent life-questions, and hopefully discover acceptable answers.

I’ve just finished watching a 1-hour scientific video about stress.  It was produced by National Geographic, and it was entitled:  Stress, Portrait of a Killer.  I viewed it on Netflix, and I would strongly encourage all of you to watch it, be you young or old.  Stress comes from our primal reptilian brain and endocrine system, and was designed as a survival system (the fight or flight syndrome).  It was never intended to be an ongoing chronic condition.

Everything about living in the USA is stressful, and we are exporting our disease globally. Stress is conditioned by the amount of control we have over our immediate environment, both personal and professional.  Take away control, or the perception of control, and stress increases.  Can you honestly say that you have control within the framework of your government, your job or even your personal relationships?  My guess is at least one of those areas is out of control, and probably more.

Stress hormones longterm often cause a compromised autoimmune system, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, cancer and obesity.  Chronic stress can leave permanent emotional and physical scars, and can even transcend generations via the womb. Longterm stress is bad news.  There is no downtime anymore.  We are hybrid humans now with all of the electronic gear plugged into us.  As a species we are forgetting how to enjoy solitude and quiet, even to the extent that our brains are re-wiring themselves to operate differently.

Doctors are treating symptoms and not the root cause.  Corporate managers and government officials are exacerbating the problem rather than mitigating it.  We take pills for everything, and abdicate our personal control in lieu of stuff-acquisition (the more stuff we acquire, the more stress we bring into our lives).  The prognosis for the average citizen of the United States is:  that both the quality and longevity of their lives will start to diminish. Our children and grandchildren will not live as long (or as well) as we have.  What a terrible legacy.

What has been the immediate benefit of me leaving a toxic work environment and personal relationship.  Getting rid of stuff and status and becoming a virtual nobody?  To living in a foreign country on an income that is a mere pittance when compared to my peak earning years?  In other words, what has been the immediate benefit of removing chronic stress from my life?

  I take one medication instead of five

  I’ve lost 30# without even trying (no dieting whatsoever)

  I am more social

  I am less angry

  I am happier

Is it time for you to pull the trigger and leave the rat race?  I don’t know, that’s for you to decide.  I’m not sure there ever is a right time, most of us are forced into it.  I was forced, and I resented the hell out of it.  Now I realize that it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  But I do know this, absolutely and for certain, you need to take steps NOW to remove chronic stress from your life.  It will age you prematurely, and it WILL kill you.  At the very least start taking steps in the right direction, you won’t regret it.  And watch the video I mentioned above.


3 responses to “Killer At Large

  1. Hi Stephen, I guess I had a lot of stress on my job with the water district. I was on call for 27 of the 33 years that I worked for them. Sometimes I was gone for over 24 hours at a time. For 7 of those years I was on our emergency crew, when the phone rang in the middle of the night I never new what was coming at me. Then I spent almost 21 years as a system operator. Many things happened that had an impact on that job, power failures, fires, broken mains that prevented me from keeping water tanks full, and just plan high demand during Santa Annas that I could not stop water levels from dropping. But two things are somewhat different for me, I loved what I was doing, and I asked for both of those jobs. I was just a blue collar guy that had a high school education, and felt very lucky for those 33 years to be working for them. I have been retired for almost eleven years, about eight years after I retired I had a mild heart attack doing what I love, photographing wildlife. Go figure.

    • Hola Tim,
      The real stress comes into play when a person has no control. When they are expected to complete a task (and be held strictly accountable for results) with no support from their superiors. That’s the kind of bind that employers are inflicting upon their employees these days. If a person enjoys their job, and has a fair amount of autonomy, then it’s a different kind of stress. It is more transient in nature. It’s the chronic stress at work or home that kills. When you want things to be different, but have no control in making them different. It is like the chronic stress experienced with job loss, divorce and death. Good stress can motivate you to be effective when needed, and allows you to enjoy your down time. Bad stress never leaves, and eats away at your health. It would be interesting to know if stress (good or bad) played a role in your heart attack, or if you were just genetically predisposed. Regardless, I am glad that you survived it and that you are enjoying your retirement photographing the critters.
      Buenas noches amigo,

  2. What I do when things start to build up around me and I feel overwhelmed I ask myself do I have any control over this situation. If the answer is no, I just let it go. I have gotten very good at this. It was not easy at first, but in time I was able to just drop things from my mind. Every once and a while I have to remind Sharon to let something go, but she is not as good at it as I am.

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