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The Biology of Courage

Yet another TED Talks video  in my recent binge of them when I have moments in my day too long to just sit, but not long enough to get into anything serious. This one made me feel very Curious (orange).

I can say I’ve been under a lot of stress inducing things recently. Walking into an interview and hearing “I’m really sorry but we have an emergency, can you help sub a class for a little more than two and a half hours? The age group is 4-6 year olds.” Another interview cancels, more resumes to send out, taxes to file, a small pain in my side that is terrifyingly (dark green) similar to what I felt the just before the last few kidney stones I had…

This list goes on. Everything from financial stress, medical stress, relationship stress, career stress, and more. All hitting me at the same time. I’ve been more than a little worried about what effects this would have on my health… yet another stress.

After watching this video and thinking back on all the times I’ve felt courage, it really never is the absence of fear. That moment when you choose to fight rather than flee, or that moment you choose to win no matter what, is filled with heart pumping fear.

Sorry I don’t have the link handy, but years ago I read an article or hear some speaker that compared the biological impact of modern day work stress to fighting a lion that wants to eat you. The chemical response was almost the same, and some people are working themselves to death because of how long the body stays in that chemical state.

I’m sure many of you have seen #firstworldproblems both as a joke about something silly, but also as a response to someone trying to reach out because they are going through something. Somehow suggesting that they aren’t fighting lions for food, so they should chill… when in reality, some of the things we deal with in the modern era are just as taxing on our bodies.

Luckily, it seems our bodies also come with stress resilience built into the stress response. The trick for me (and I’m sure many others) will be learning to use it properly. I know I have done it before. That moment when you’re playing a new game that you aren’t already max level, and a huge dragon shows up. I’ve been fighting scary bosses my whole life, and now my automatic response is “bring it on, this will be fun.” It’s to the point now, that monsters in my dreams make for the most fun dreams because fireballs. No joke, my nightmares are always about real life, and monsters in my dreams are just fun.

Of course, the levels of stress seeing the giant digital monster are no where near the stress I face in real life… but isn’t practice always easier than the real thing? Personally I plan to try to use that as a model, and see if I can put that feeling into real life using the ideas from this TED Talks video. Let’s see how it goes.

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