Stresshacker Not Found. Click To Continue.

Riccio_SH Sometime between midnight and 5 am on Thursday, the computer server that “dishes up” Stresshacker went down. And stayed down. Eventually, during the day, it died. The result was the disappearance of from the Internet. Service was not restored until late on Thursday evening, and not fully (with a new server) until this Friday afternoon, for a total down time of about 12 hours.

First, my apologies to the visitors who tried to access and were met with a screen that proclaimed its disappearance. We have taken the necessary steps and hopefully this type of incident will not happen again.

Second, this was an object lesson on the management of stress and anxiety. My reaction cycled through the stages, from denial (this can’t be happening), to anger (this shouldn’t be), to bargaining (maybe I can get them to fix it fast), to despair (we are down forever!), and finally to acceptance (we can use the down time to research and choose a better solution). The stress process took a couple of hours, while the repairs to the server took six times as long.

The lesson for me: experience the stress fully (I had a darn good reason), let the anxiety ebb and flow, and then get to work to address the real culprit: better Internet service.

Stress: The Misunderstood Messenger

Stress has a bad reputation. It is largely undeserved. Stress itself is not the problem. The stressor (of which stress reaction is the messenger) is the problem. Moreover, there is more than one kind of stress: the good stress that motivates and the unmanaged stress that damages.

Unmanaged stress is generally understood as a bad outcome, a mental disorder from which we suffer either in acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) form. However, we believe that all stress is bad and pathological because that’s what we are being told over and over.

Many times a stressor takes us by surprise. But many more times we can see it coming, we can expect it to happen, we can see the warning signs. Too often the warning signs are ignored or, worse, are turned off so that they won’t bother us anymore. Many choose to turn them off by

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History of Stress: Then and Now

Turner_RomaModerna The stress response, which occurs when we are threatened or when we perceive a threat, has a long history in human development.

In its evolution, prehistoric and historic humans have experienced significant environmental stressors. These stressor influenced our genetic development.

The principle of natural selection favored individuals who efficiently conserved energy, endured dehydration, successfully fought potentially lethal agents, anticipated their adversaries, minimized exposure to danger and prevented tissue strain and damage. How do we handle these genetically selected traits today? See it after the jump. Read more

Stress Software: How Fear and Exercise Are the Same

Dali_1951_RaphaelesqueHeadExploding When it comes to stress, exercise and sheer terror are one and the same.

An adaptive and vitally important characteristic of the nervous system is its ability to increase arterial pressure almost instantaneously. This can take place in times of good stress (exercise, getting out of the way of an incoming bus), but also in times of bad stress (loss, grief, calamity, adversity, job strain).

During dangerous situations (real or perceived as they may be), arterial pressure rises to as high as twice its normal value within a few seconds. This spontaneous alarm reaction triggers a dramatic increase of arterial pressure that can immediately supply blood to any or all muscles of the body needed to respond. This translates into an enormously increased ability to fight against or to flee from the cause of danger.

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Stresshack #3: Livingstone, The Lion and Me

 Livingstone_LionRIn going round the end of the hill I saw a lion sitting on a piece of rock about thirty yards off with a little bush in front of him. I took a good aim at him through the bush and fired both barrels into it. The men called out. “He is shot, he is shot.” Others cried, “He has been shot by another man too, let us go to him.” I saw the lion’s tail erected in anger and turning to the people said, “Stop a little till I load again.” When in the act of ramming down the bullets I heard a shout and looking half round I saw the lion in the act of springing upon me. He caught me by the shoulder and we both came to the ground together. Growling horribly he shook me as a terrier dog does a rat. The shock produced a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first gripe of the cat. It caused a sort of dreaminess in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror though I was quite conscious of all that was happening. It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe: they see the operation but do not feel the knife. This placidity is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivora and if so is a merciful provision of Creator for lessening the pain of death. As he had one paw on the back of my head I turned round to relieve myself of the weight and saw his eyes directed to Mebalwe who was aiming at him from a distance of ten or fifteen yards. His gun which was a flint one missed fire in both barrels. The animal immediately left me to attack him and bit his thigh. Another man whose life I had saved after he had been tossed by a buffalo attempted to spear the lion upon which he turned from Mebalwe and seized this fresh foe by the shoulder. At that moment the bullets the beast had received took effect and he fell down dead.

David Livingstone (1857). Missionary Travels (pp. 11-12). London: EW Cole.

Scottish explorer Livingstone, in his journey to discover the sources of the Nile, reported what is now known as stress-induced analgesia. Under conditions of extreme stress or in the adaptation to an extreme environmental challenge, an individual’s normal reaction to pain—reflex withdrawal, escape, rest, and recuperation—could be disadvantageous. In a dire emergency, these reactions to pain are automatically suppressed in favor of more useful behaviors. It turns out that we have a piece of software, the analgesia system, that automatically activates in these circumstances, with rather remarkable effects.

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Stress Attacks!


Good stress motivates and mobilizes to action. Bad stress, of the pathological kind, ambushes and attacks with vicious relentlessness. Its favorite areas of attack are self-esteem, self-assessment and analytical abilities as they relate to past experiences, present situations, and expected outcomes. When stress strikes, the past can become a repository of bad precedents, the present a bleak landscape of dangers, and the future a (seemingly) real possibility of annihilation. Sounds exaggerated? Yes,  when stress is at manageable levels. However, in the presence of a real or perceived grave stressor, one’s abilities to cope with or respond to the challenging situation can become severely impaired, leading to three possible outcomes: flight or running away from the stressor, fight or direct confrontation, or the glacial paralysis of freeze.

Can we prepare for a stressor of significance, e.g. a major financial loss, with any degree of success?  If so, what needs to happen before the stressor occurs? What mental/physical preparation can one make?

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