The autonomic nervous system, containing two subdivisions. The parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems. Fight or flight. Run for your life. Save it.
Changes in the serum level of many hormones, including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin. Cortisol. The scientific name of “it” all. Stress.
Pounding heart. Sweaty palms. Medulla oblongata. Brain. Back pain. Nausea. “Mind pain.” Maybe?
Been studying a lot of biology lately.
It’s complex, with lots of terms, names and structures. Yet it’s simple, they say. You know what? It’s all about some chemicals, some coordinated principles and some facts of human evolution. Our great hunter–gatherer ancestors sitting around the fire, trying to stay alive. To mate and maintain their species. To eat. To find clothed, warm, brilliant comfort at the end of the day. Our great Mrs. Hunter–Gatherer mother, trying to find security with the help of a male. Mr. Hunter– Gatherer, on the other hand, trying to be the leader, trying to keep safe what he has built with his own powerful, calloused hands. You know what? The equations are always the same. We just make it seem as if they’re complicated in this super-duper, modern environment. What a shame!
The lecture notes say there are three types of this making-it-all-seem-complicated phenomenon. Acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. You actually need the acute type. It’s your friend. It’s that friendly reminder, telling you that you might be in danger, so you should now be aroused. The episodic type comes around when that worried friend of yours starts to visit you just a little too often. You feel disordered; there’s always some weird note telling you, “Hey, this might be dangerous.” You’re in a rush, but always late, and this seems to happen way too frequently. Finally, there’s the grinding stress that wears people down day after day, year after year. Long-term, chronic stress that is not thrilling or exciting. It’s the stress that occurs when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation and in time even gets used to feeling that stress. Good definitions, good categorizations.
It seems like when you know something, you don’t help yourself with that knowledge, but instead tend to judge yourself. And then, with all the things you know, and with all the things you’re learning, you try to look at things in this easy schematic way. Others tell you to do that, too. And at times when getting advice results in nothing but rumination, you walk through, you try to understand the deep, noisy mess surrounding the place where they all talk about what they know. Confusion. Pounding heart. Sweaty palms. Medulla oblongata. Stress.
I don’t know a thing.
I don’t know how to have that free relationship, how to have that free time, how to have that controlled mindset, how to focus on survival. How to not feel a lot. Like our ancestors did.
In this column, for some time now, I’ve been giving some ideas on what to do about some very cool topic. In one issue or another, I’ll probably go on with that.
But sometimes, sometimes there are no lists of ideas. No “to-do” lists. No “how to” pages on the internet that can actually make you learn. No book of biology that adequately explains to you how you feel, why you feel that way, and how to not really care about it. No more complications.
Sometimes there are no answers.
Maybe that’s fine.