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Stress and sustainability

September 3, 2009

Nope, not a reworked Austen for modern times (I wouldn’t dare tread where Hollywood’s been so often – I might get something smelly on my shoes), but a couple of thoughts which happen to alliterate.

Sometimes you come across an article so marvelous you just have to share it. Natalie Angier’s article in the New York Times is one such thing. Read it, do. It’s about how chronic stress actually increases our tendency to habit formation and how, fortunately, we can recover.

I was thinking about habit formation because recently I’ve encountered quite a few young athletic individuals with pretty dramatic spine problems. Not one of them has had a traumatic injury incident – all acquired these problems through repeated, continuous faulty use of themselves. But all of them came to realise there was a serious problem when the pain sent them to a doctor for tests. Now each of them is learning, painstakingly, how to move again. How did such apparently healthy individuals come, unwittingly, to do themselves so much damage? Stress, and habits.

Living in overdrive is pretty much standard in contemporary urban existence. We generally push ourselves until we break, instead of heeding the early warning signs. Could the blossoming push toward environmental sustainability have a lesson for each of us: for personal sustainability? Could the two even be interlinked?

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