Stress or Distress
In Times of Stress
“I’m so stressed I can’t even think straight.” Sound familiar? Is stress always bad? Can it even be motivating? Are we suffering too much stress today? What is the link between stress and memory and mood?
Strangely there is a link. Stress physiology has come of age. It all started in the late 1950’s with the pioneer work of Hans Selye at McGill University in Canada. He developed the general adaptation theory. The modern leading researcher in stress is Robert Sapolsky author of the delightful and whimsical book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. He is professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research, National Museum of Kenya.
But let’s start with Selye and the short unknown volume he wrote in 1975 entitled Stress with out Distress. Turns out stress is actually motivating. It gives us our edge. It is what keeps us moving. It is distress that causes dis-ease. So the notion we call stress is really distress, a pathologic condition that leads to ill-at-ease, disease and a general assault on our immune system. This has given rise to a most compelling but quite daunting term — psycho-neuro-immunology. It is the science of how our emotions and perceptions (brain) control our immune system and thereby affect our susceptibility to disease and pathology like cancer and chronic illnesses. …