Vol. 19, No. 2 • May 2015

Learning Resource Review
What Is Your Stress Level Today?

by Jeanne Preisler

National Geographic produced a documentary a few years ago called "Stress: A Portrait of a Killer." It's available online and takes an hour to watch.

It is an hour well spent.

Stress in the Lives of Resource Parents
We know through an abundance of research that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a lifelong impact on our social, emotional, and physical health.

As adults, it would sound a bit strange, though, to refer to our current negative experiences as "adverse adult experiences." Instead, we simply talk about "stress."

And we have stress in abundance, don't we? Resource parents see and hear about the horrors a person can inflict on another human being. We are stressed by having to juggle countless meetings, court hearings, after school activities, car pool lines, homework, and doctor's appointments. All this on top of family stressors, work stressors, and financial stressors.

What I like about this documentary is how clearly it shows how my stress today is physically impacting me and, just like ACEs, how it will impact the rest of my life. The documentary highlights research conducted in North Carolina, California, Great Britain, East Africa, and the Netherlands. It describes the impact of stress on various populations, including mothers caring for children with disabilities, baboons and macaque monkeys, people in the workplace, and on children in utero.

My Challenge to You
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is watch the entire documentary. There are so many elements that all tie together, it's important to stick with it until the end.

Bring a healthy lunch to work and watch it during your lunch hour if you cannot find any other time. But it would also be good to watch as a family and then discuss it.

This documentary will give you a deeper appreciation for how stress affects hormone levels, body weight, brain cells, immune system, memory, arteries, and even chromosomes! And that deeper appreciation (in addition to being mind-blowing at points) might actually add years to your life.

My hope is that everyone watches this free online video. But if that is not possible, here is its bottom line message: stress is not an abstract concept that is "just in our heads." It is something real, measurable, and dangerous to our health.

We must all prioritize stress reduction. In the workplace. In our homes. In our schools. In our community. Everywhere!

For stress we cannot avoid, we must learn ways to keep it in perspective, to manage it better, and to find stress reduction options that work for us.

Our very lives depend on it.

Watch the Video Online

Jeanne Preisler works for the NC Division of Social Services on Project Broadcast, an effort to help the child welfare system become more trauma-informed.

~ Family and Children's Resource Program, UNC-CH School of Social Work ~