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The Mystery of Stress

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I feel like as I entered high school the word "stress" was just beginning its arduous journey into the lives of all people in every country, on every continent of the world. Prior to this time, no one really used the word and it felt vaguely medicinal; something associated with lab mice or chimpanzees who'd been abandoned by their mothers by sadistic behavioral scientists searching for themes for their books on human development.

Yet, seemingly overnight, everything revolved around stress. "I'm really stressed out" was how we used to say it when it was just coming into vogue and nowadays there's shortcuts galore, "Don't stress," the "out" having been, of course, dropped off the end like so much detritus. "You look really stressy" is also common, just changing it up a bit, tying a little pink ribbon on it's head. "Major stress" is an oft-used turn of phrase as is: "Don't stress," or "Don't stress about it." But what has baffled me since the dawning of the stress epoch is, what exactly is it? Prior to the coming of the stress-age, it was thought that working hard and striving were, well, sort of what was expected. After all, weren't we supposed to try really, really hard and then, if we failed, get pretty upset about it and, if we cared enough, use that pain and humiliation, anger and frustration to try even harder the next time? Weren't we supposed to work our backsides off and have it mean something to us, becoming emotionally invested in our work and then taking time now and then to rest or recuperate from it, only to have renewed energy to try again, to get back out there, to continue on?

The advent of the stress age has helped so many of us to let go of our anger, our frustration and our perfectionism. After all, if we'd continued on as a species of road raging, corporal-punishing, dog-beating lunatics, we wouldn't be here today, creating the incredible reality television shows and oil spills we've come to know so well.

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