Monday, April 21, 2014

Pressure per unit area vs. deformation per unit length

So we're getting to the point in the semester when stress starts to get to us. Do you know the origin of the concept of stress? Hans Selye was an endocrinologist who developed much of the way we conceive of stress today. He was the first to study and describe the physical effects of stress. Selye was fluent in at least five languages, and chose the word "stress" to describe the process he was observing. It is said that, much later, he came to realize that, in his rough facility with English, he had made a bad choice. He was unaware that the word stress was used in physics, in dealing with elasticity. When a force, or stress, is applied to a surface, deformation, or strain, results. Selye realized that he had mixed the terms, and what he had called stress should rightly have been called strain. The term has stuck.

Stress should properly be considered as the pressure put on something; strain is the deformation that results. Stress comes to us (speaking on a mental/emotional level, not physical) in the forms of our obligations, responsibilities, our jobs, our schoolwork, or relationships, friends and family, unexpected emergencies, etc. Stress can affect us in many ways, and can have a negative effect on our health. It's important to remember it's not the pressure that hits us—it's whether that pressure bends us out of shape. Stress isn't the problem—strain is. Stress is a trigger for growth. As long as the stress is handled gradually, our mind and bodies can adapt to it, and grow stronger as a result. It's when the stress happens too quickly that we don't accommodate it, and we get strain. The system under strain breaks down.

We all need to learn how to manage our stress, to prevent it from becoming strain. Breathing exercises, physical exercise, meditation, yoga, massage, journaling, healthy eating, calming music, a trip to a favorite environment, etc. All good techniques for unwinding and decompressing.


Dave Roel.
Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.
- Stephen R. Covey

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