TOPAZ Issue 1 / 2001
An insight into Stress
Garden of Remedy and Easement
New Science Eyes
Hildegard von Bingen
Pioneering youth project
Film Review: The Unbreakable
Sustainable Development

An Insight into Stress

by David Gommé

Stress is regarded as the second most deadly disease of the 21st century. In this article David Gommé provides an insight into the accumulation of stress factors in daily living, no matter where or how we spend our days.

A stress workshop in Germany I have been fortunate over recent years to work in collaboration with a number of eminent researchers in the field of stress. A recent comment from one researcher, on hearing that stress is now regarded as the second most deadly disease of the 21st century after heart disease, was: ‘But how much of heart disease is caused by stress?’

Wherever we place this syndrome that we refer to as stress, it has become a major factor in just about everyone’s life, particularly affecting people who need to handle large amounts of information and communications. Stress factors are even now being detected in the very young, right from the first one or two years of schooling.

How, then does a person recognise that they are suffering from stress? Well, it appears in the way of factors - from small and manageable to dangerous and unbearable. Stress always starts with pressures - time pressures, deadlines, the need to demonstrate a certain capability, the need to respond, the need to learn and comprehend.
To illustrate this is an example to do with money that most of us will recognise either through our own experience or with people we know. A person is stretched financially but they are just meeting their financial requirements when suddenly there appears a large and unexpected bill. To meet this extra demand they then need to get a loan, they then need to work another three hours a day to pay off and so there is an added time pressure, and all this causes sleeplessness. Now a new trend begins to build in their life to do with a bigger demand on their personal resources.

You can see from this example how requirement and demand translate in a person into what they need to do, and at some point this crosses a certain threshold of internal pressure when the stress to build. Once this threshold is crossed any extra pressure into the system is like adding a drop of water into an already full cup. So in the above example, another bill for even a small amount of money can trigger extreme repercussions in a person, such as in tensions, irritabilities, anger and other kinds of outburst.

Anger or irritability are particularly dangerous, as they deplete our emotional energy and cause exhaustion. Other symptoms can be to do with nerve overloads. This is a result of a major causer of stress, which is overload of impressions that the nervous system is unable to cope with, which eventually can result in the ‘burnout’ syndrome. A good example to illustrate this is information overload. These days, for example, the average executive needs to assimilate volumes of information at factors of 10 and more, in comparison to 10 years ago. The increase in information overload has become exponential, and so has the demand to cope with it all.

This is very clear to see with the speed of development of information technology and its effects into the business world. Nowadays an executive can take a few days’ holiday from work and come back to 300 emails. Each one requires an answer which is expected immediately.
This is in contrast to forms of communication 10 years ago, with the slower pace of letter writing, posting and replying. This same executive may be preparing an offer for a project. His client has access to the internet and will be on there checking out his company, checking out his competitors, who is strong, where the best deal may be. So our executive not only needs to prepare the bid, but he also needs to know what is on the internet about his business. Unless he keeps in touch he is going to lose out to someone else.

The cycle of change is smaller than it used to be, and for everyone, not just executives, information is available in quantities far greater than 10 years ago. Today scientists are specialising more and more in less and less and into increasing detail. This information overload even applies to buying something as simple as a kettle: what size, filtered, type of element etc.
The range of products available in our shops has grown exponentially, with so much choice even of the most simple products, you almost need to be an expert to decide which brand to buy and then there’s the instruction manuals!

information overload even applies to buying
something as simple as a shampoo...What transpires from this state of affairs is that many millions of people suffer fatigue, a kind of tiredness that can be likened to metal fatigue in aircraft, when a section of the surface of the aircraft is caused to handle enormous wear and tear. At some point, its internal structure starts breaking down, which is what can happen to millions of nerve structures in our brain and throughout our body. This is when many of us start complaining about disorders that relate to all manner of malfunctions of internal organs, small at first larger later on, such as heart or intestinal pains and disorders, irregular heartbeats, liver disorders, shallow breathing, and so on. The list is huge, and even includes interruptions at cellular level.

The big question is, what can we do about this? To what degree can stress be prevented? Can it be avoided altogether? Well, as an approach into these realms, the first and perhaps most important insight is that stress starts building and aggregating when a person cannot access their natural capabilities. And here the reader would most probably ask: What does this mean? This is a pivotal point in dealing with stress and needs further understanding.

One way of illustrating this is by way of highlighting natural qualities and even more specifically, natural intelligence. (In which there are many kinds, such as emotional intelligence or cognitive intelligence). Being that each human is unique (the proof is in the finger as well as the mindprints), each of us is gifted with a unique combination of qualities.
So one person can be more of a visionary ideas person, whilst another can be more of a practical, doing, diligent person both creative in their own ways. When we find ourselves in pressure situations that demand us to perform differently to what we have become used to, stress factors begin to build. When this state of affairs persists, and all of us suffer this to one degree or another, we are forced to have to handle more and more with less and less. So if, by analogy, we can naturally pick up 20 kg with both hands, when we are limited to having to do this with only two fingers, pressure and stress build up in the system. Where does the answer to this begin?

onze natuurlijke veelzijdigheid, die als het ware een snelweg van 10 rijstroken creëert... It begins by showing people that they have an inner qualities resource that is unimaginably greater than they realise.

And this is done by first finding ways to confirm a person’s present and active qualities as well as showing them how to access their hidden as yet unrealised potential. Some may think that this is too idealistic, but new training sciences that are currently emerging prove that this can be accomplished with remarkable results.

So the way to learn to handle stress is by learning to develop our natural versatility that would, by analogy, create a 10-lane highway in which traffic can travel with much greater speed than in a congested one lane way.

Can we do away with stress alltogether? Well, the answer is no, but it can be reduced by a good percentage, to make it manageable.

Where to practically begin? There are many, many approaches that can be opened up in future articles, but just as one example, consider the following: Think about something that you feel that you are currently missing, such as warmth, or accuracy, or patience. Then, perhaps for a week or more do an exercise of giving it or demonstrating it genuinely to others. Try to go out of your way, and you will gain a little more insight into why there is so much stress in the world.
Of course there is much much more to it, but this is in the spirit of making a small inroad into the subject.

David Gommé is a business and management consultant and trainer living and working in the Netherlands.

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