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Are Your Memories Causing You Stress?

StressBy Lashanda Henry

I watched a marathon of the television show This is Us today. This show deals with the complexities of life, family and love. It effectively dismisses the myths of the perfect family and life while affirming that through struggle there is triumph. At least, that is how I see it. You need a thesaurus to come up with words to describe the range of emotions the characters and viewers experience.

In episode 8 of season 1, the family celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday. We learn how they developed their Thanksgiving traditions through flashbacks. We are also privy to the consequences of past decisions or actions. These consequences could be good or bad. They could also make us feel joy or pain. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that this show is such a hit. The characters seem like real people dealing with real life stuff.

Our emotions affect our stress levels. In Stress is Personal: Your Personal Starter Guide to Stress Relief, I wrote about the physical nature of stress. Stress is a physical response to any real or perceived stimulus. The physical response may be barely noticeable, experienced as butterflies in the stomach. It may also be overwhelming as the body prepares to fight or flee. the heart beats harder and faster. The muscles tighten and breathing becomes short and shallow. The physical response is exactly the same regardless of the catalyst.

The stress response can be initiated by memories or exposure to the experiences of others.
In episode 10 entitled The Pool, the family visits a community pool. Nine year old Kate wore her favorite bikini and was ostracized by her peers. They wrote her a note saying that she “embarrassed them.” Kate’s feelings were hurt which caused her to feel sad. I felt for Kate as I remembered being an awkward nine year old. Although my heart did not beat out of my chest, my own emotions caused me to feel stressed.

My stomach turned and my chest tightened as I remembered the Sunday evening I yelled at my cousins and brother who laughed at me because I could not get a particular dance step. I remembered in detail the anguish of not being able to do the dance move; the anger that caused me to lash out; and the embarrassment for the punishment I was given for my behavior.

A personal incident that occurred over 40 years ago caused me to have a physical stress reaction as I sat in my cozy home watching a television show.

So it is with stress and the stress response. Real, imagined, actual or perceived catalysts bring about the stress response. We are bombarded by various stimuli throughout the day which causes the stress response to work in overdrive.

Constant, ongoing stress has been found to contribute to health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. It interferes with restful sleep and contributes to uneven mood. Stress also hampers memory and the ability to think clearly.

Marcyline L. Bailey, LCSW provides information and skills to achieve a satisfying work experience. She is the founder of the Happy Half Hour Club, a community for hardworking adults who want to be happy.  Subscribe to receive stress relieving tips that can be accomplished in 30 minutes of less.

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