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Behavioral Effects of Stress

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Sara had worked up the plan by herself and was excited to present it to the room full of her peers. “No, no, no,” they said, and she was surprised at the anger in their voices. One after another they criticized every part of her recommendation and began offering their own advice, with one of the men taking charge and placing their ideas on screen. At the end of an hour’s discussion they came up with the perfect plan. Sara looked at it and said, “Exactly how does that differ from my plan?” All her peers glared at her, and the one in charge shouted, “It just does!” She had not anticipated that exclusion from the original plan would have made them all so angry.



Andria and her husband had decided that she would be the sole wage earner until their daughter was 3 years old and he would stay home. After a year, Andria began returning home every day to dishes piled in the sink, toys and dirty clothes strewn everywhere, and a daughter demanding her attention while her husband disappeared to play video games until bedtime. To deal with her anger and anxiety over the chaos and her husband’s withdrawal, Andria suggested marriage counseling. The marriage counselor said that as long as her daughter was healthy, Andria shouldn’t complain. Andria plummeted from anger and anxiety into depression.



Paul enjoyed going out to bars his friends in college, but he figured once they graduated, they would all settle down. Instead, his friends continued to invite him to share a few drinks after work and mocked him if he refused. On weekends, the partying went on to daybreak. Unable to keep up with both work and partying and unwilling to lose his college friends, Paul started taking drugs to spark his energy. When his boss remarked on his odd behavior at work, Paul added a drug to smooth out his reactions. As his addiction grew, his friends began to withdraw and his boss gave him increasingly severe warnings about his performance—sparking Paul to drink more and more.



Tony easily handled most of the changes resulting from his promotion. What bothered him was the tendency of his team to attack him with issues the moment he walked into the door at work. Trapped before he even took off his coat, Tony felt his stress levels soar. So he instituted a rule: demand an answer the moment I walk in the door and the answer will be no; wait until I’ve had a chance to drink my coffee and respond to emails and the answer will probably be yes. In no time at all, Tony had a smoother transition into work—and as a bonus, half the problems that would have formerly greeted his arrival now seemed to solve themselves.

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