stress

Stress and Health

giraffe toyI was listening to Magic Lessons a week ago, and the episode hit a little too close to home. It was about a British woman who had just finished her PhD on the history of the Holocaust, but she had grown up wanting to be a comedy writer. She was so unhappy and stressed by her work that her hair started to fall out and she developed several health problems. Now, I'm not a New Age-y person or anyone who believes in "signs"... but damn, the timing of this was way too creepy.

I'm starting week three of being sick. It's not fun—lying in bed when I wasn't working at the day job, not really wanting to eat, an obnoxious amount of Gatorade, my dog standing on my aching form like he was a mountain goat for reasons known only to him. Though it did allow me to catch up on the Stranger Things craze, but that was the only positive.

However, my doctor has confirmed that this isn't a stomach bug or something related to travel. And I had visited her just a few weeks earlier for acid reflux issues, and her first question was, "Are you experiencing any stress?"

My answer: "Always."

I fall into stress like a 3-year-old in a Chuckie Cheese ball pit. I'm a perfectionist, I want everyone to get along, and I will do anything for validation or to make people like me. All of my math tests had me bawling during my school years—it was the only class I would pray to get a "C."

The tension in my back reminds me that I'm alive. That is not just a bit; that is a fact. Do you know those wooden toy structures where you press a button on the bottom and they collapse—typically a giraffe? That's what I'm like when someone massages my shoulders. Collapsible KC. (Now I'm imagining a scenario where people read this blog and immediately want to massage my shoulders, just to see if it would happen. Yes. It happens. Please don't touch me.)

Now, is stress a direct cause of the health issues? I don't imagine you can get stress cancer. However, stress can be that starter domino that leads to other health issues. Not just mental health, but your body trying to implode while you are still existing in it. Those damn survival instincts can really do a number on you to the point where even your own body is at war with itself.

Is there a situation where I don't feel stressed? Honestly, I never feel stressed on stage. I have bad nights, yes, but even on those nights, I'm still at ease. Then I get off stage and Deep Ellum walking and car traffic has me screaming on the inside, because who wants to accidentally murder someone after a show?

I don't have good advice here other than see a medical professional. And maybe find things that don't make you stress, like looking at puppy pictures or reading or watching something with puppets... like Empty Inside on Saturday, August 27, at 7 p.m. I hear they're good... no bias at all... please like me.

KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.

Warning for Graphic Violence, Grisly Images, and Mild Panic Attacks

Movie Anxiety It’s embarrassing to say that movie-watching anxiety happens to me quite a bit. Especially in our current culture where intense action sequences and reality based character moments are the norm. I mean, how often have you cringed when an awkward scene from The Office or Louie occurred? Did you feel like you had to leave the room? Increase that experience by 10 or more, and you have my common reaction to movies like Argo and No Country for Old Men. Great movies, but I do like having control of my heart rate and breathing. Therefore, probably never seeing those movies again.

Of course, this would be a great excuse if it were just related to modern movies.

“Okay, I can’t do this anymore,” I said to my husband once.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Can we just pause the movie? I can’t handle this right now…”

He tilted his head. “Um… sure, but I need you to tell me what’s wrong.”

“My favorite character I like is going to die, I know it! I feel like I can’t breathe! Just pause the movie!”

“It’s The Great Escape, honey. It’s just like Chicken Run--”

“THIS MOVIE IS NOTHING LIKE CHICKEN RUN!

I’ve been thinking about this a bit since Sunday after seeing Deadpool during a brunch showing at the Alamo Drafthouse. My anxiety is often amped up by graphic violence and high threats of danger, which I was expecting going in. However, I shielded my eyes once or maybe twice throughout the entire movie while feeling no stress. My breathing remained even, my body did not shrink into my seat like an accordion, my eyes were not tearing from fear that my favorite would die. Why was this?

The obvious answer might be the fact that it was a comedy. Come to think of it, one of my top 10 favorite movies is Shaun of the Dead and my favorite TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I avoid horror movies and war/gangster/violent-lifestyle dramas at all costs, so it takes a lot of convincing, bribery, and alcohol to get me to watch them. The straight horror and violent drama films always have the same reaction from me, where I have to split the movie over several days. Yet despite the fight it took to get there, the films that are grounded with comedy win my heart. It takes me back to when I first saw Aladdin and the Genie first shot out of the lamp. I was terrified by that immediate impression but in the next second it turned on its head when I heard Robin Williams’s voice say, “Oy! Ten thousand years can give you such a crick in the neck.” That was a telling moment, I think. Even though people could get decapitated left and right or a stare-down could go too long to the point of discomfort, I find that in most cases comedy provides not only humanity but escapism from what I fear.

And not all hardcore violent movies give me anxiety.

My husband’s latest fascination is a series of Internet videos called “Everything Wrong with [insert movie title here].” After watching one on Mad Max: Fury Road, he told me that the shots were set up to reflect Max’s point of view during one of the chase sequences. Rapid cut to’s and shaky cam and what not.

“That explains why my anxiety ramped up during that scene,” he said afterward.

“Wait, what? You had a near anxiety attack?” I asked.

“Yeah. You didn’t?”

“No, I wanted to put warpaint on my face and start a fire! Then I could dance wildly about the flames as the Doof Warrior plucks and pulls notes that would make my enemy captives wail in pain from the sheer amount of awesomeness happening around them! FOR VALHALLA!”

“... huh.”

Different strokes.

KC Ryan is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.