Ah. Time for an interlude. Both of the kiddos are resting. My husband is out getting his-and-her iPad 2s (my Christmas present) at the local Apple Store. My eyes are burning, yet writing is more restful to me at times even than sleep.

Costco always tires me out. Love the savings, love the coupons we used today, even love the samples; loathe the crowds, the carts wandering and meandering on diagonals, people scattering in chaos, the lack of clear foot-and-cart traffic rules. I have to psych up even to enter the milieu in Costco. Steel myself. Remember to focus on one step at a time, let go of my need for efficiency. Although I am cheerful most of the time, I am seldom cheerful in the crowds in Costco. If only we had the organization of ants…

I do try. I meditate beforehand, take deep breaths. Remind myself that I have all afternoon to navigate the warehouse if need be… I try to look on the positive side. Invariably, I can hold out for about twenty minutes, and then the stomachache sets in. Stress. My glucocorticoids were humming.

Back in August, we learned that Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a favorite professor of mine at Stanford (I took his Human Behavioral Biology class and I try to keep current with his work even now—he’s that compelling of a teacher), believes that a “stress vaccine” may be on the horizon.  He has been researching this possibility for about thirty years, and his Stanford team has now been able to modify a herpes virus to carry “neuroprotective” genes to stop the glucocorticoids before they cause tissue damage. It makes me wonder: how different would the world be if we could better modulate our fight or flight responses? I can imagine a more peaceful world. Or at least a better Costco experience.

Stress fascinates me. We need some of it in order to learn, yet too many glucocorticoids annihilate brain cells and weaken our immune responses. Clearly, too much of this hormone is like a poison, yet it is highly needed to survive and adapt. I often think about this very issue when I am mothering my children. My focus with both children is to create joy, joy, joy, and laughter to release the good chemicals and build patterns of interaction with the world that will serve them in later life. The flip side, of course, is that every so often a child makes a decision that needs consequences, consequences that they child doesn’t like, causing tears and stress. Take away a privilege, or give a time out…either way, the stress is necessary for development. But how much would be too much?

And how much is needed in our own lives? Sometimes we need the edge of stress in order to grow. I am thinking of my Toastmasters competition last week. What might happen if we are able to eradicate it completely?

So, readers, this one is for you: what would the world be like without stress? If you could, would you attempt to minimize or eliminate all stress from your life? Can stress be good? How do you moderate your own fight or flight response? How do you gather your joy in a stressful world?

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