Pressure, Stress, and Mindsets


Kelly McGonigal spent many years telling people that stress was dangerous,  but it turns out that research shows that stress is only dangerous to people who think it is bad, dangerous, or harmful. 

It turns out that people really can thrive on pressure. 

Dr. McGonigal made this video to help correct some of the old perceptions. 

Now,  why am I writing about this?  Because I’ve never been great at handling pressure and stress. I thought that was hard-wired, unchangeable,  but apparently changing your attitude toward stress can help change its effects on you. 

So what now?

Dr. McGonigal showed us one immediate,  easy to use stress intervention.  Whenever you feel stressed,  tell yourself “My body is preparing me to meet this challenge.  My heat is beating harder and my lungs are pumping faster to get more oxygen to my body and brain.

Tell yourself that until your believe it and you can eliminate the cardiovascular dangers of stress (mainly blood vessel constriction) and make yourself less flustered and more energized. 

Additionally, connecting with others,  especially caring for others, makes us more resilient to stress. Community and compassion can actually nullify the health damages of major life events. 

Also, “chasing meaning is better than trying to avoid discomfort.”

I’m going to try to our these into action. I’ll report back later and let you know how it goes. 

Meat-Free Monday: The Best Reason

There’s another reason that I’m going vegan, and it’s both a moral and a health reason: I want to be there for my daughter for as long as I can.

She’s 3. I’m 41. She should not have to bury her father anytime soon. Assuming she has kids, they deserve to get to know their grandfather.

Now, I’m not ticking off the time. Most of my recent male ancestors made it to 80 and beyond. One great-grandfather died young, at 59, from a heart attack.

But none of them (not even the one who died young) was fat. And, in case my profile picture and last Monday’s weigh-in haven’t tipped you off, I am.

Now, I’m all about body positivity, so when I say “fat,” I mean it descriptively, not pejoratively. I’m definitely a big deal.

And while the actual evidence about BMI and morbidity is a lot more complex than the diet pill pushers want you to believe: BMI is a terrible measure of health, to the point of “lying by scientific authority,” and the topic of weight and weight loss are so emotionally and financially fraught that they’ve developed their own mythology.

Read Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata and Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon to see how some of that mythology developed, and to see through some of it.
BMI balderdash aside, even at 6’7″ tall, it can’t be healthy to weigh 375 pounds.

And while diets have been repeatedly proven to not work in the long term, I promise I’m not dieting (I lost another 2-3 pounds this week, depending on how I stand on the scale, but I promise I’ve been sucking down food like a vegan vacuum cleaner), so I hope I can escape the almost certain re-gaining plus interest that comes after five years.

In all the health and weight talk, people often forget to mention one thing:mobility. I was slowing down. I was getting hurt more easily. It was getting harder and harder to keep up with my little girl.

And while I’m still not ready for the Olympics, I’m doing a lot better. It’s easier to get down to the floor and back up again, I move more quickly, I feel better, and I’m even healing a little faster. Swimming has helped, to be sure, and so has the lost weight, but I feel like my eating has really “fueled” the improvements.
Eat better, feel better. There you go!

Things I Don’t Understand, Death Before Adam Edition

Horned Viper by H Krisp Creative Commons

Horned Viper by H Krisp, Creative Commons

File it under “things I don’t understand” right next to complementarianism, but I just don’t get the idea that Young Earth Creationism is necessary to the Christian story of redemption.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I understand a belief in Young Earth Creationism.  It fits the “plain meaning” of Genesis 1 better than any other interpretation, even if it is out of step with current scientific understanding.  My point here isn’t to debate a young versus an old Earth (though I’ll probably get to that one in time), but to address this one puzzling concept.

For those who aren’t familiar with the idea, you can watch this video and also this one and see Ken Ham, a leading Young Earth Creationist, debate Dr. Walter Kaiser, a professor of Old Testament studies.  If you don’t want to watch forty minutes worth of videos, you can read this article, which explains the position, and, if you’d like, this article that both further illuminates the position and argues against it.

To sum it up:  Death is the consequence of sin [Romans 6:23, Romans 5:12].  If there was death before Adam’s sin, or if there was no literal Adam, then death is not really a consequence of sin, and there was no point in Jesus’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.

And that is what I don’t understand.  How can anyone who lives in this world question, for even one instant, the existence of sin?  America’s violent crime rate has been falling for 20 years, but we still have roughly 15,000 murders per year, and millions of violent crimes.  War rages across the world, between nations, cartels, and terrorist organizations.  Practically every government on the planet is corrupt to one degree or another (some legalize graft and call it “campaign finance reform,” but that doesn’t make them any less corrupt), and many still kill and torture to protect their “interests.”

Evil even permeates our daily lives.  Most of the chocolate we buy is produced by child labor, including widespread slave labor.  We so often treat the people around us horribly.  We turn away people in need.  We get so sure that we’re right that we trample on anyone who disagrees.  We lie, we gossip, we scheme, and we live so utterly, terribly selfishly.

How can anyone look out this window and wonder whether we need a savior?  We surely haven’t saved ourselves, not in five thousand years of recorded history, and not in all the long years before.  And there simply is no way that God’s power is limited by something Adam did or didn’t do.

That’s why I don’t understand the belief that “no death before Adam” is absolutely necessary for the effectiveness of Jesus’s incarnation, death, and resurrection.   It just seems like looking at things backward.  But maybe that’s just me.