Friday, May 11, 2007

Awards Ceremonies - Good or Bad Stress?

Last night I had the honour of taking my daughter with me to the Niagara YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala Banquet to find out if I was a winner in my category of Education, Training & Development. I could really relate to all those people who say, "It's really just an honour to be nominated!" - While that's true, let's face it! When it comes time for them to announce the winner, you really want it to be you! I'll tell you what, I thought my heart was going to leap right out of my throat, it was beating so hard. When they finally announced the winner for my category, Tracy Sacco, Collegiate High School Principal, I was actually a little relieved. While it would have been the icing on the cake for me to have walked away with the beautiful bronze statuette, I think at that point my blood pressure was so high, I might have fainted before I got to the stage to accept it.

That for me, was a classic example of what happens when the body becomes overwhelmed with a stress response. My body went into a high impact state of fight or flight - even though I wasn't being threatened by anything. The simple feelings of emotional expectancy and anxiety combined to make a potentially lethal cocktail in terms of my body's physiology. With heightened awareness, my heart beating exceptionally hard and fast, my blood pressure up, and my body producing inordinate amounts of sugar and cholesterol, in that moment, even though it was a "pleasurable state of fear", my body was being put at risk for a plethora of diseases from cardiovascular disease to diabetes.

Fortunately, that state of intense stress only lasted for about 5 minutes. Once my category was announced, I quickly went back to my baseline and enjoyed the rest of the evening. But think about this - what if I or you - walked around in that intense state of stress ALL the TIME? How long do you think it would be before you had a heart attack or stroke, or ended up with some other kind of illness like irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, hypoglycemia, diabetes, or stomach ulcers? I don't know about you, but I think finding ways to manage stress effectively is well worth the effort. It could possibly save your life; it will most definitely extend it.

So what? - some of you are asking. What does this have to do with anger? Guess what folks: the anger response is almost identical to the stress response at the physiological level. Everytime you get angry, you will go into a state of fight or flight. The longer you stay angry, the longer you put yourself at risk for developing disease in your body. That's definitely something to think about.