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.
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 everyones 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 theres the instruction manuals!
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?
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 persons 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
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
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.