• Jason E. Fort

The Stress Continuum



If you haven't figured it out through earlier writings, I express my interpretation of the condition of the world and country around us through my writing. He wouldn't know it, but something a friend of mine (we'll call him Frank ;) ) said got me thinking...and it all has to do with this little thing we call the stress continuum.

We talk about it in one of the trainings I deliver to staff in healthcare, called Aggression Management. In that training, I prepare students for ways to manage aggressive behavior in the people they may contact. It may seem like common sense to know that most violent incidents that occur in healthcare are related to stress - yet we still have plenty of those incidents. But one of the things we go over is that fact that several of these incidents that involve aggression start out in a chain of events as they relate to the onset of stress. A person is presented with some kind of crisis. The crisis is stressful and forces an individual to try to cope with something they weren't expecting. The involuntary reaction to that stress is anxiety. If for whatever reason anxiety cannot be quelled, then the behavior can escalate to agitation. When that frustration has nowhere to go, and there is no alleviation, it can result in verbal aggression. At that point, the frustration that was held in is channeled out, in the form of harsh language, yelling, verbal altercations, and even threats. If we get to this point with an individual, we have to be careful how we communicate with them - what I mean is, we don't want OUR words to be that last trigger they need to send them up one more notch...the state of physical violence.

It's not all that different from how a volcanic eruption takes place. And a lot of times, there are signs along the way that help you know that eruption is coming. I try to help staff know a lot of those signs to look for, but of course we don't always see them.

Now, I also admit that this process can take time, or one can go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. But once the communication and de-escalation isn't working - violence usually results. And once violence is present, SOMEBODY has to control it. That's where the rest of my training comes in, and I teach self-protection and control techniques.

So how does this relate to the condition of the world around us?

Well, I think society as a whole is almost at a breaking point. I think we have escalated our behaviors almost to the point where communication is out the window. I think we're past the point of anxiety; past the point of just being agitated; I think it's downright obvious every day in our news feeds that society is very verbally aggressive right now, of course already breaking out in violence in small pockets all around the world. And I think we're on the precipice of something really violent about to happen. I think it might just happen soon.

So the question is - what do we do?

That brings me back to what my friend Frank said. I tell security officers and even medical staff, that even while we are already holding a patient down to prevent them from hurting themselves and others, one thing you can ask them to do is take deep breaths. Avoid common phrases such as 'Calm down' or 'Relax'. But I have seen it in a person several times; when a person actually listens to just the command to breathe, and starts taking in more oxygen, breathing deeper - just a little bit of that fight in them dissipates. Before you know it, the staff involved in physical control are able to back away, and leave the individual alone. Does this always work? Nope. But that doesn't mean you don't try to calm the situation.

My friend Frank said we just as a nation need to take a deep breath. His words didn't even ring true until I had time to digest them. But even if things go bad, like I think they will, regardless of who wins the election - we're going to have to take a deep breath. Fact of the matter is, if we don't listen, God will step in and take physical control. He has before, and He said He will do it again. The question then becomes, at what point does the Lord of the universe decide enough is enough...and go ahead and put us in our place?

So what do you think? Can we as a nation, or even the world, step back and take some deep breaths? Or are we about to blow our top? Only time will tell. I pray the good Lord helps us find peace - one way or another.


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