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Stress Management and Wellness: You Are Not Alone Part II

Posted by Matt Schmidt | Mar 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

To know who Rebecca and her crew are, read Part I first.

After a group discussion, Rebecca and the crew agreed that it was time to pick a trail and set out. Carol didn't trust anyone and decided to fend for herself. She had all of the food and TP, after all; she'd be better off than the rest, she thought. Turns out, things didn't work out for Carol. She forgot that Mike had the matches. Without a fire for warmth and extra bodies for protection, she died from both the cold and a pack of wolves. It was not the way anyone would want to go.

Meanwhile, the crew hiked from place to place, stopping to camp and moving on to the next place once they had exhausted the food source in that area. Eventually, however, they found a place with a constant water supply, plenty of food, and shelter. Not knowing if they would ever find a "final destination," they decided to make one. 

With a permanent location, the group didn't have to constantly travel, gather, and hunt. This gave them more time to farm, breed, and build. It also gave them more time to think, communicate, and write their ideas down. They invented items that made doing things more efficient, giving them even more time to think, communicate, and write. Rebecca's twin boys, Bill and Steve, invented something called a computer with an internet, providing an infinite space for creation and storage that was available for immediate reference. Of course, because Jarred was a trio of moron, jerk, and liar,  not all of the information stored in this computer with an internet was the most reliable.

As we discussed last time, survival is the primary element that all living organisms fight for. As humans, it was the most important thing when we were created and it is the most important thing to us today. Stress is a byproduct of our need to survive, the difference between then and now being that stress has genetically evolved from acute immediacy to chronic worry.

As hunters and gatherers, the only real worry for us was “don't die.” Find food, find water, find shelter and don't get eaten by a lion—that was it.  The information available was limited and our choices less, creating a heightened focus on the present surroundings and narrower concentration on the direct task in front of us. With limited information, less choices and therefore more awareness came a better sense of control over the things that needed to be done to live (limited information = less choices = better awareness = more control = less stress).

 When stress did come—a snake in the bushes, a failed hunt, an uninhabitable territory—it was more immediate and temporary. We either resolved the problem quickly and moved on with our extremely focused lives or we didn't make it. And that was that.

As our brain evolved and our culture settled into agriculture, both our time and ability to communicate grew to conjure up ideas that though completely imagined, became real to society: time, money, politics, business, and law.  And the Kardashians. These are things that do not exist in our natural order. In our legal world, for example,  dolphins do not hold four-day trials with lawyers, judges and juries to evaluate dolphin laws and determine how many dolphin dollars an injured dolphin should get for the negligence of a greedy dolphin corporation. A gorilla does not stress over what will happen next on Love is Blind.Though these imagined realities are not required for the ultimate goal of survival, our society has accepted them to the extent that individual rejection would cause real hardship.

When our brains ran out of capacity to store all the information we were imagining, writing created an infinite storage unit. The invention of things like telephones, computers and the internet caused the ability to share this infinite storage unit with anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world.

As a result, we now have too much information (both reliable and unreliable, thanks Jarred), too many choices, less awareness on what we should be focused on and less control over countless things. Our society's ability to create and incorporate ideas has outpaced our mind's ability to evolve to deal with them; our mind was not designed and is not yet built to handle chronic stress. Most of the time, the majority of us are not truly stressed over having the adequate amount of food, water and shelter to literally live. Our stress doesn't usually come from an immediate call to action, a temporary need to fend off a bear from the deer we just killed so our tribe has something to eat for the week. Most of our stress now comes from constant worry over things that have been entirely made up by and have created more difficulty for our very own species.

Currently, however, there is a bear that threatens our species, creating a constant supply of chronic and acute stress soup for us to devour. Chronic or acute, however, our minds still genetically link all of this back to the most primitive concept: survival. Our minds still equate both real and imagined failure to death.

This can be viewed in both negative and positive light. Our brain will attempt to compare ourselves with others, because our mind will at least perceive that someone else out there is doing better at living (and if someone else out there is doing better at living, your mind literally equates that as an existential threat). Being aware that your mind is doing that on purpose in an attempt to protect you can flip it into a comforting thing. It also allows you to have better awareness so that when you recognize that you are comparing, you can shut that switch off and focus on your own well-being instead.

Most of the time, our stress stems from wondering what will happen in the future if we do a, or b, or c, or what will happen to us if x, y, or z occurs. We conjure up countless scenarios in our heads, and usually they are negative. This is because our mind is simulating different hypotheticals to try and determine which one provides the best chance of survivial. It usually focuses on the negative  because those are the ones it needs to be most prepared for.

As discussed in the previous column, none of this makes you a weirdo--we are all stressing as a species because we all care enough to exist. And caring, of course, is good.

Now, I'm not suggesting that I would prefer to wake up knowing that if I don't kill a bison today I will die of starvation and hypothermia because those were just “simpler times.”  There are obviously benefits to our society's advancements and today's modern world. What I am suggesting, however, is that it is important to know why we now chronically worry and where it comes from. With that awareness comes a better understanding not only of what's important, but that you are genetically not alone. We are all—and have always been—in this hunt together

About the Author

Matt Schmidt

Matt graduated from the James E Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in passing the Arizona bar exam in 2010. Matt's primary interest in law focuses on general personal injury and insurance bad faith.

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