“I was a little excited but mostly blorft.
“Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’
I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.”
“The mind can go either direction under stress—toward positive or toward negative: on or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end.
The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.”
Life does not have any exit signs. Once you enter you are in. And this even includes shit days.
And I kind of think this is why so many of us encounter stress.
We use meditation, ‘time outs’, mindfulness exercises and a whole variety of tricks to relieve the natural stress of Life but, well, you cannot exit. Yet, we all keep searching for some fucking exit to get us out of whatever we are currently unhappily dealing with.
Origin of Stress
Middle English (denoting hardship or force exerted on a person for the purpose of compulsion): shortening of distress, or partly from Old French estresse ‘narrowness, oppression,’ based on Latin strictus ‘drawn tight’
In physics, stress describes the force that produces strain on a physical body (i.e.: bending a piece of metal until it snaps occurs because of the force, or stress, exerted on it).
And sometimes that is where I think stress enters. It enters when we seek exits.
In addition I think that stress is constantly looking in the windows constantly looking for a way in and all the while we are constantly looking out the window at them worrying. We worry because most of us don’t like being boxed in by Life. We just feel more comfortable knowing there is an exit.
Life does not have exit signs.
And, holy shit, that stresses us out.
I will note this is bad unnecessary stress versus good stress. Good stress? Yeah.
The stress response in humans is facilitated by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of our kidneys and spit adrenaline into our blood whenever we’re in need of fight or flight. That stress response is crucial in dire circumstances and is important to our survival instincts.
But while Life often feels like a survival test it really isn’t. It is more really like a grind. This means that, scientifically speaking, most of our life truly does not requires stress. In fact … by permitting stress to remain at some sort of low level hum simply keeps us on some needless edge.
Now, that said, having no Life exit signs REALLY matters when … well … something occurs where you start frantically looking for a fucking exit.
When is that?
Research has shown that although the type of events which result in the release of stress hormones are different for everyone there are common elements to situations that elevate stress hormones in everyone <amusingly, the acronym for the common elements is ‘NUTS.’:
Threat to the ego
Sense of Control
Regardless. I don’t think we talk often enough about the no exit thing. And because we don’t far too many people dwell on shit <mistakes and “what if scenarios”> because we didn’t accept the right frame of reference for dealing with whatever it is we need to deal with.
While research shows that some elite performers have an uncanny ability to clear their heads after making errors and constantly move on I would suggest it is less about leaving mistakes behind and more about the fact they are better at accepting that they are ‘stuck where they are and no exit is magically arriving’ and they basically accept ‘it is what it is.’
This attitude certainly affects how someone manages stress and absolutely positively affects performance.
Can this attitude be taught?
Well … yes and no.
Managing stress is not as simple as doing yoga or relaxation techniques or any ‘go online and find the 5 secrets to reducing stress.’ Stress is a very personal thing and a very complex thing. It is not as simple as saying “I will no longer do this.” The brain has lots of different circuits built on top of one another which seemingly provide feedback and stimulus to our most primitive and primordial response systems.
We make the complex even more complex through many of the mental gyrations we go through to eliminate or limit stress. It seems like it would be much simpler to begin attacking stress at a more foundational level. Maybe like … well … getting people more comfortable with the fact that Life has no exits. Maybe accept that where you are is where you are. And, lastly, maybe that where you are is much better if you aren’t always looking around for some frickin’ exit which doesn’t exist.
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
Sydney J. Harris
originally posted September 2016