Long-Term Stress & Anxity, Like The Frog Slowly Boiling

The metaphor is that a frog put into boiling water will immediately jump out of the water, but if the frog is put into water that is slowly heated to boiling point will stay in the water. This has not been scientifically proven but provides a metaphor to describe the small changes that occur day-by-day to change “normal” to mean something we would have found unpleasant or unpalatable.

For example, this might be applied to attitudes towards global warming, where changes to air quality, the depletion of the arctic and antarctic ice, or receding glaciers would have been unacceptable but have slowly become accepted as the new “normal”.

Stressful Times

We find that during times of stress and anxiety the intensity slowly builds up day-by-day, to change “normal”. It is only after the intense time that a sense of relief arrives. Here are two examples:

1. At work: For EH, the stress and anxity of work slowly built up to the point that they felt necessary to walk away from work. The company, the boss, and the work all became causes for stress and anxity. EH felt like a failure by leaving the company, even though it went against their sense of getting the problem solved, even if there are just a collection of nick-nacks on a table to solve it. While working at the company, EH felt that there were problems at work and with the right nick-nacks they could be worked out.

It was not until after EH left that company that they really appreciated how unhappy they were in that company. This contrast was highlighted two months after leaving the company when EH was clearly much happier to be free from the company, the boss, and the work.

2. In the world: We found the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch (New Zealand) to be deeply unsettling. For some time after the terrorist attack we were very emotional because of the impact to the 51 people killed, 49 people injured, and all of the adults and children left with PTSD or other emotional trauma caused as a result of the terrorist attack. The terrorist attack brought into focus the underlying sense of Islamophobia in New Zealand media and the Kiwi consciousness that could have been conditions for the terrorist attack.

Gotta Get Through This

It is easy to say that “we should have been more in-touch with our thoughts and feelings and known we were stressed and deeply unsettled”, but it wasn’t quite that easy. In both of these situations, the focus was just to get through the situation that we were faced with. We were dealing with the situation as it unfolded.

There are signs of long-term stress and anxity. Looking at the Health Navigator we were simply not happy and that had these characteristics of stress:

  • Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, and tightness in jaw muscles.
  • Dry mouth, meaning that we drank a lot of water.
  • Feeling on-edge and more easily irritable.
  • Difficulty falling asleep or waking up to thoughts about the situation.
  • Feeling unfocused and flat, making it difficult to complete tasks.
  • Twitch in muscles around the eyelid.

For one of us, the “eye twitch” is a giveaway that we are stressed or deeply unsettled. In these situations then it might be necessary to take action. This is the subject of our next article.

Love, @HappyOps