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“Stress is the enemy”, we hear it a lot. The language we use confirms it; we “combat” stress, “fight it”, and “battle against” its effects. In general, our understanding of stress is – just Like our understanding of more conventional enemies – flimsy, based on stereotypes rather than facts.

This isn’t surprising. In a war we are reliant on propaganda for our information; few of us take the trouble to get to know the enemy and acquaint ourselves with the drives and ambitions that motivate their attacks.

Fighting talk will never vanquish stress, any more than shouting at a siren would protect us from an air raid. Hostile language might sound brave and give the impression that we know what we are talking about, but stress is part of us, and we can’t win a battle with ourselves.

What we call stress, when we are suffering from it, is a constellation of effects – changes that occur in the body out of necessity – when we are at risk. Stress is an alarm, a call to action, and when we ignore it or oppose it we simply put ourselves at increased risk.

If you know how to heed the call you are on the way to managing your stress reactions, that is the road to resilience. Fighting talk merely antagonises the enemy, and in the end all wars are resolved through understanding and discussion.

 

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