The stress of life: a modern complaint?



In The stress of life: a modern complaint? the Lancet takes a look at the implications of over work and over worry.

The report notes that

Late 19th-century doctors and their patients also believed that stress could generate or exacerbate physical illness. Clinicians sometimes explained the development of cancer, diabetes, and thyroid disease, or the appearance and severity of influenza, in terms of the debilitating effects of over-work and over-worry.

going on to say

The emotional stresses and strains of bereavement, domestic difficulties, financial problems, and the pace of life were all regarded as plausible triggers of pathology. In 1872, an article in The Times suggested that rising death rates from heart disease were the “unavoidable result of the great mental strain and hurried excitement” generated by steam and electricity, over-crowded communities, and the relentless and exhausting struggle for existence.

Contemporary belief in the capacity for stress to produce both mental and physical disease was so strong, according to the prominent Cambridge physician T Clifford Allbutt (1836—1925), that many people regarded the 19th century as “a century of stress”.

I’ve previously asked  the question Do we cause irreparable harm when we push ourselves too far? trying to do too much too soon and not pacing ourselves properly

In this article they make a similar point

In the 1970s, the left-wing American writer Alvin Toffler argued that post-war populations were suffering from “future shock”, a state caused by “the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time”.

The final thought is quite balanced

past populations were no less stressed by warfare, epidemic disease, unemployment, and poverty than their modern counterparts are. Since at least the mid-19th century, narratives of distress have been bound together not only by mutual understandings and shared experiences of stress, but also by the apocalyptic fear that stress is the inevitable result of the psychological pressures generated by the unfettered growth of industrial and technological capitalism.

If I have sparked your interest then checkout The stress of life: a modern complaint?

90:10 The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Stress

For another angle checkout this video from DocMikeEvans which I include because it gives you a nice story. Stress has provided the pressure on which us humans have evolved so the answer is generally to find ways to manage it or even thrive on it. I think you will enjoy the way DocMike explains this paradox.

Weight loss: Avoid empty experiences. Make the most of each experience.

One specific thing I have changed is a focus on being in the moment more. I am a confessed workaholic always on the go. Previously I often rushed meals not really noticing what I was eating. So often I would pick something that filled me up instead of something that tasted good. I focused on quantity over quality.

These days I make sure I take time each day to properly enjoy food or anything else fun. I didn’t realise before but my brain can only process so much information at once. Taste and other sensations are just part of the information the brain can process. If there is too much information flowing around these simple information like this can get loss in all the noise just like anything else.

So I tried an experiment to see if I could really appreciate a meal while also reading something interesting like Facebook. I found I couldn’t because I was too distracted by reading. I could enjoy strong flavoured foods, generally fast food type stuff but not the really special stuff with more subtle flavours. What I also found is that if I didn’t appreciate the taste and sensation of the meal then it felt like I hadn’t eaten at all. To the point that I was still hungry.

My stomach might not have been crying out for food but my mind was because it was expecting some food based entertainment. So I reach for a biscuit, get another drink or pop to the shop for food even though I had already eaten a full meal.

This got me thinking. Is it then possible to completely forget a meal? So I carried on doing the normal things I do at the same time as eating. True enough I started to notice times when I couldn’t remember whether I had eaten. I was not yet hungry but the meal time had passed. You know that situation when you weigh up whether you will be really hungry if you don’t eat. I checked with my wife what I had eaten. Even when she reminded me of the meal I had enjoyed including a whole pizza I couldn’t remember the experience of eating it all. It was my favourite pizza as well but I had rushed eating it. Paying no attention. I felt like I had been robbed of a special moment. It seemed weird but I felt empty.

Food does have a special place in my heart. But now I was in that unhappy place where I couldn’t or shouldn’t eat anything more. I had eaten plenty but I felt empty because I couldn’t remember it. I had the urge all night for more. I paid attention to breakfast I can tell you. That was a special meal that day 🙂

Experiences like these remind me to make sure I experience my food and other special moments because they really are good for my soul as well as my body. This small change has made a huge difference. I can really feel just how much it helps me to enjoy my food more and as a consequence, eat less.

So tell me am I alone or have you experienced this yourself or anything like it? Does paying more attention to your meal help you enjoy it more and maybe crave less extra food?

How activity and exercise improves your health

Child running around a wet play area

For years we have been told that exercise is good for us. Now the evidence is becoming indisputable.  Being inactive is as bad as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. It could even be more serious than that.

Over the years I’ve found so much information I didn’t know what to do with it. I mainly shared it through my original blog or kept it private hoping to share it when I found the right approach. For many of these articles I’ve now been waiting years which just isn’t helping anyone.

I recently realised my blogs are the perfect medium on which to share because I’m most interested in the discussions and debate around this topic. I don’t feel I have the answers, I share because I’m interested in learning and using what I learn to help me on my journey through life.

I have now started to organise all I have found and it’s re invigorating my dreams because the message really is about living your life. The act of living itself is what we must do. Moving is living. Activity to me isn’t just physical it is mental and emotional. Thinking about things makes your brain active, experiencing emotions involves both your brain and your body.

For now most information will be about physical activity because that is what is most available. Though I am looking for and finding interesting articles in all three areas. Over time this and all the other posts will grow as I continue this life journey.


For now I’m creating a series of articles covering the various topics related to activity and health. So far I have published:

Key articles

Activity is so useful throughout life that I’ve also compiled a list of the main articles worth reading to build your general knowledge.

Useful Reading

Here is more useful information

Can you train your emotions

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a long time but never felt I had the time to do it justice. Now I just feel I have waited too long so I need to put my first draft together and then build it over time.

A recent article Size, connectivity of brain region linked to anxiety level in young children is useful because it provides some evidence that our day to day experiences influence the development of our brain. Of course that is not particularly surprising. What I want to do is look at the insight in a different way than is discussed in the article. The idea that you can control how your brain and emotions develop much like you can train your body. That is kind of a crazy notion but actually something that my training and articles like this indicate is possible.

In the same way you cannot create muscle or tendon where there is none you can’t create new sections of brain or emotion. But you can enhance what is there. So too with the brain and emotions. If you spend your life focusing on being calm and relaxed it stands to reason that your brain and emotional system will connect strongly in the areas required to be calm. If you spend your life getting stressed then your body will see this as a training stimulus and develop the areas to support your stressed lifestyle.

It is this way of thinking that I feel can help you get control of your mind and emotions and make them work for you.

The findings of the study are:

Prolonged stress and anxiety during childhood is a risk factor for developing anxiety disorders and depression later in life. Now, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown that by measuring the size and connectivity of a part of the brain associated with processing emotion—the amygdala they can predict the degree of anxiety a young child is experiencing in daily life.

They found that

the larger the amygdala and the stronger its connections with other parts of the brain involved in perception and regulation of emotion, the greater the amount of anxiety a child was experiencing.