How is stress strengthening or damaging me, you, your partner and our society? We’ll discuss and more … on this edition of Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: DR. MARY WINGO – STRESS
Guests: Dr. Mary Wingo
Date: September 19, 2016
Frank: How is stress strengthening or damaging me, you, your partner and our society? We’ll discuss and more … on this edition of Frank Relationships.
Yes. As always, those are my babies. Thanks for getting daddy’s daughter today.
Author and researcher, Dr. Mary Wingo is with us today and I’m curious… If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. If you believe that then what’s the problem with stress?
Mary: Good morning. Good morning, Frank. I will tell you what the problem with stress is. What [unclear] so we have not framed stress as a risk assessment type of approach and that is what I aim to do. Our perspective of stress at the same level as we would with whether we choose to smoke or not or whether we wear a seatbelts or motorcycle helmet. It’s basically the same thing.
Frank: Okay. So help me—you did clarify. The first thing that popped in my head as soon as you said “we don’t frame it as a risk assessment type of approach, I was thinking “what is she talking about?”
Frank: You did, you brought it home when you said smoking, helmet… Okay so I have examples, but would you clarify with a definition of some sort what a risk assessment type of approach is?
Mary: Well, you know I’ve been setting this for many, many years and one thing that basically all physiologist/stress researchers/a psychologist understand. But have not been able to frame properly. Its effect that stress is—when we undergo stress, it is an actual risk assessment that we really, really need to reframe this is because what we’re experiencing today especially in the US, is an unprecedented amount of disease and early death and disability caused by stress.
Of course this is… been exploding parabolically since the 1950 but in the last, say 5, 10, 15, 20 years in especially in the last few years, it’s really become the problem. It’s become such a problem that it’s truly—in front of our faces. It’s like the 900lbs gorilla in the room that nobody’s talking about.
It’s affecting our collective public health. I kept waiting for somebody else to write this book. For somebody smarter, and more prestigious but I haven’t actually been in [unclear] for 10 years but a small business person. But since nobody else was going to do this, and we have in front of us, an impending humanitarian crises, I needed to do this. I needed to do this to atleast bring to the foreground to the public’s attention and hopefully the policy makers and the health care provider’s attention just how important it is to truly, truly get a hold and manage our preventable stress because most of this is preventable.
Frank: Welcome to Frank Relationships, a show for you my brethren who like me, are too young to be considered old and too old to be considered young. It’s also for those of you that love and support us. We’re here to provide weekly wisdom, conversation and the information that’ll help create loving and flexible parents and partners.
I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com. If you’re listening to the show on Blog Talk Radio, please follow us and if via iTunes, please subscribe so that you can effortlessly get the show each week.
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Greetings to my super duper co-host, Nancy Goldring.
Nancy: Hi, Frank.
Frank: Hey, hey. The consummate generalist.
Frank: Ha-ha. Be interesting to see what you got to teach me today. What you picked up along the last week.
Nancy: Along the last hour and a half in the car.
Frank: We’ve got a special guest today.
Frank: She’s born in the US where she earned a PhD in Human Stress, researched from the University of North Texas and in 2014, she immigrated to Ecuador, a tiny country in South America (for those of you who didn’t know). And she lived there in a very new and different society. She knows this environment, opened her eyes to the unsustainable social, economic and political cause that preventable stress causes in our fast paced world.
Her aim is to clearly explain to you and I the biological mechanisms behind the stress response as well as its staggering cause to society. So, if you like me, want to know how stress affects us and our relationships, why she decided to write a book on stress and why has modern society seems such an explosion and stress-related illness and early death, then stay tuned as you Frank Relationships team talks about stress and its effects with author and researcher, Dr. Mary Wingo.
Welcome to the show.
Mary: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Frank.
Frank: Of course. Before we get too deep into today’s subject matter, I want us to check in and see what’s kind of going on in the world around relationships. Doc, please don’t be bashful. We certainly want your thoughts too. You got anything for me today, Nancy?
Nancy: Actually before I left out, I heard a tiny clip on what sleeping together does to the longevity of a relationship. And I was like, wow. Okay, what you got?
Frank: What did they say?
Nancy: They had nothing.
Nancy: It was a Sleepy’s commercial. I was burning mad, burning mad that I stood there waiting for the thing. And yet I found myself saying, wow, I wonder if that makes a difference and then of course I wanted to [unclear] made a difference. Everybody was married and sleeping in the same bed would still be together. And then I thought about—
Frank: Not necessarily.
Nancy: —not necessarily—that’s my point.
Frank: A difference, not necessarily.
Nancy: That’s my point. It’s like if it made a critical difference, because atleast we wouldn’t think initially people share the same bed. The point that the ad was making was that people had different sleep habits and how they negotiate those different sleep habits and still sleep in the same bed. We know all kinds of technology exists now in terms of mattresses and yet, where I found my mind going was the couples I know that are still married and they have separate bedrooms and they have great marriages. I was just like, hmm…
Frank: I’m the first to say we don’t know whether anybody’s got a great marriage.
Nancy: Well you are the first to say that and I agree. Well let’s say the game face of the marriage is phenomenal.
Nancy: So I’m like wow, what is that? like I can’t imagine being married and not sleep in—not sharing the same bed with my partner all the way through.
Nancy: That just wouldn’t be….
Frank: You don’t see it as tenable.
Nancy: That’s obviously tenable, but it just—
Frank: For you.
Nancy: It’s not attractive to me. It doesn’t appeal to me. So which is funny because I’m always looking at one of the first questions I ask is “do you snore?” like I’m always interviewing for can I sleep with this person?
Frank: Wee see, that’s interesting because you’ve—
Mary: [unclear] me too…
Frank: You got something on that Mary?
Nancy: She said “me too”. See? See?
Frank: It’s interesting because you have now interjected a variable that might cause you to share a different room. Imagine if you were married. Things were going well. Person didn’t snore and then person starts snoring, like rocking-the-house snoring.
Nancy: That’s a health issue.
Frank: No, it maybe a health issue but it may be your health issue too if you can’t sleep.
Nancy: Because I can’t sleep?
Frank: Yeah. Would you… I mean, would you figure that maybe we change rooms. Maybe we have a separate room. Would that become doable for you?
Nancy: Well my partner’s snoring wouldn’t—especially if he didn’t snore in the beginning and then he began to snore? It wouldn’t have me in the relationship.
Nancy: It’s not that intense.
Frank: So would you possibly—would you consider a separate room?
Nancy: Oh I would definitely consider it. It just with… it just would be… I guess I could go from saying it would be hurtful or sad or all those drama related…
Frank: Yeah that is drama.
Nancy: …thing. That is like—I could take the drama out of it and say that yeah, I could do it. I could sustain a relationship or marriage where I didn’t share the same room with my partner. I just wouldn’t want to.
Frank: Alright. That’s not the conditions you would prefer.
Nancy: Right, right.
Jeff: Oh don’t look at me.
Nancy: You [unclear] sir?
Jeff: Do you actually have to share a bit for more than 45 minutes with somebody? That’s a joke. I have a joke.
Frank: I was really about to open that up…
Nancy: I went right… I was just like “what??” Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff: I will say this and I know why you looked at me up. I’ve been married 32 years.
Jeff: Sleeping together and not to get too personal but it’s the most intimate part of my day. Whether there’s any kind of activity going on or I’m sharing a bed with someone I love and that’s how we are intimate.
Nancy: Right, right.
Jeff: There’s a dog between us sometimes. There were stretches in the marriage where there were kids—
Nancy: Kids between, yeah.
Jeff: But you know, that’s the sanctuary. Yes, I snore and yes, she snores and I wear a CPAP machine now and you just deal with it.
Nancy: Right, right, right…
Jeff: You just deal with it. We have other bedrooms now that the kids are gone. There’s beds in there. I can run in there if I feel like it.
Jeff: And it’s usually only when one of us thinks we’re ill and might give it [unclear]…
Nancy: Okay, okay…
Jeff: Otherwise, that’s just how I live…
Nancy: Yeah, yeah…
Jeff: …and have for most of my life.
Nancy: Right, right.
Frank: Mary, what you got?
Mary: Yes. I have no comment at all…
Frank: Alright, alright.
Mary: That’s why I avoid [unclear] like the [unclear]…
Nancy: Are you a light sleeper Mary?
Mary: Yes, very, very light sleeper although I have cured of most of my lifelong genetically-based insomnia I have…
Nancy: Okay, okay…
Frank: I find the sleeping together conversation to be a bit interesting because one thing, I sleep… When you sleep with someone and mind you, I have a wife and I have a queen sized bed.
Nancy: Plenty of room.
Frank: And you know, it’s… I consider it plenty of room but there’s a way that you sleep when you’re sleeping with someone. You sleep in a line. You almost have to. I mean, you have…
Nancy: Because you’re sharing the space.
Frank: Yeah. You can’t sleep really diagonally but so much. You can a little bit but you still—there has to be some type of order. You have to accommodate for your partner.
Frank: And I notice a mild difference when I’m travelling, I’m in a hotel bed… I generally have a… it’s generally a king sized bed I think.
Frank: And I get to just…
Frank: I get to sprawl all over the bed, I’m everywhere.
Nancy: He’s a sprawler.
Frank: Versus when I’m sharing the bed with my wife. And I don’t mind sharing the bed, I’m not complaining at all.
Nancy: Would you say you sleep better?
Frank: I don’t know. I think it’s possible, I do.
Nancy: That even though you have to accommodate her, you actually sleep more peacefully…
Frank: Yeah. But there are other conditions too. So when I’m travelling, typically… I don’t have to get up in the morning to take kids anywhere.
Frank: I don’t have to get kids up. I get to sleep… generally I sleep later than I would when I’m home.
Frank: So there’s so many different little things that could make the difference. I don’t know.
Nancy: I get it.
Frank: I don’t know.
Frank: But I could see it being an interesting thing to research or play with.
Nancy: Right. Okay.
Nancy: That’s what I have.
Frank: Wow. That was one that we… We discussed that for a little while. I had something too but we’re not going to talk about it today.
Nancy: Oh, wow.
Frank: We’ll save it for next week.
Frank: We’ll talk about Dr. John Gottman next week.
Nancy: Oh okay.
Frank: Yeah he’s an interesting researcher…
Frank: …in the field of relationships.
Nancy: Oh god, okay.
Frank: Okay doc! Let’s get to the good stuff. What you said that stress is a risk assessment type of approach but I’m curious… when we talk about helmets, helmets are a risk assessment—I guess that’s what we could call it—and you’re at risk of dying in a motorcycle accident. When you’re talking about smoking, you’re at risk of getting cancer or even a stroke and possibly heart disease. I think it’s heart disease also. But if you are in… if you have stress or a certain level of stress, what are you at risk of?
Mary: Okay. You are at risk of basically all of the diseases that we consider part of modernized society be it heart disease, the various types of cancer, of course part of heart disease is high blood pressure, there is pulmonary dysfunction—so a lot of this stuff, oh mental illness. Oh I forgot that. a lot of these problems were not that common a hundred years ago, believe it or not. They existed but if you look at the various graph of incidents of these various diseases over the last 50, 75 years or even 20 years, it is basically parabolic.
So what this indicates is this is really a part, the way that humans have evolved over millions of years. This is something directly new to the stress, being exposed to the stress of how modern society is actually configured.
Frank: What the heck is—
Mary: That’s the interesting part.
Frank: What is parabolic?
Mary: Sorry about that. Parabolic is like this huge like increase. It’s like a huge—it’s not just a little tiny increase over a period of time. It’s like when—it basically goes vertical if you’re looking at a graph.
Mary: Yeah, a huge spike.
Frank: I’m going to challenge you and my challenge is when I hear people talk about a hundred years ago and how they were better—and I’m not necessarily saying you’re wrong, but I’m definitely challenging you. I got… a question mark comes up because these things weren’t necessarily measured a hundred years ago. We didn’t know as much. We weren’t able to measure or diagnose certain diseases and conditions a hundred years ago as we can now. So how can we really compare apples to apples?
Mary: Well actually, you know that’s not entirely true. I mean, diabetes, it’s fairly… I mean, a lot of these are fairly well documented, you know… I mean, it’s not as obscure as we might think it is because a lot of people, they did not die from these because—I mean, of course they died from infectious diseases, [unclear] from childbirth… But these, like from what people die from now, from what they die from say around like say 100 years, 120 years from the you know, industrial revolution, it’s completely different. It’s just a completely different profile and it is.
And then of course, living here in Ecuador, I’ve come full circle because you know, of course it’s a highly socialist country. There’s a lot of socialist clinics that are low cost or free. And I go to these because they’re in my neighborhood, I can just walk to them. And so when I got to get like say my teeth cleaned or anything like that, another thing over and over and over that 2 ½ years I’ve been here that these clinics are mostly empty, like the doctors are waiting for you. There’s no line of people. The truth is, of course knowing many Ecuadorians and integrating in the culture—which is not as sick. And why aren’t they as sick? They’re just not as sick as we are in the US. They just aren’t.
Why is it? Well it’s because they have very strict control of managing their stress. It’s a culture.
Nancy: They’re actually…
Mary: It’s very, very interesting. Very interesting. It’s really shocking, honestly.
Nancy: So Mary, I’m listening to you and I’m saying well wait a minute, the life expectancy of a child born today is 125 years. Many of the—
Nancy: Yeah. Many of the technologies that are designed to make our lives easier, more convenient, the unexpected consequence is our lives are more stressful. We could say because we have more options—you know, we can—thanks to the light bulb, we can read deep into the night or worse than that, thanks to the iPad, you only have to have the light on and you can read deep into the night.
So there’s this… what you’re saying that people didn’t die from at least the same things and theoretially atleast, it implies that the quality of life was better and yet we’ve made the strides, we’ve made because we wanted to improve life. There’s also—the other thing that comes up for me is that there are qualities of stress and that what looks like distressful lifestyle to me could look like relaxation to someone else. It’s not that I disagree with you per se, it’s just that what it means to be stressful atleast in this country, has gotten… there’s so much variety to it. Do you know what I mean?
Mary: Well basically, see unfortunately, because looking at—well it’s actually adaptation when we’re talking about stress. We’re talking about collectively the mechanisms of adaptation in any animal but we’ll just focus on people. Basically, in order… the problem is is that it’s so complex, it’s probably the most complex field in science in reality. And this is why it’s taken me so long and this is why there hasn’t really been any good, like analysis up until now with this because… You know, what level you want to study… Do you want to study this in a molecular level? You want to study this on a gross theological level where we’re looking at systems? You want to study this… what various ways on the psychological level do you want to study this? [unclear] trauma, work place stress, relationship stress, yada, yada… Do you want to look at this on the sociological level? What happens especially now in the geopolitical turbulence when many people, you know hundred and millions of people become very stressed all at once what happens? Or do you want to look at this on a political and economical level?
The thing is, there’s actually 5 major reasons why stress has exploded in modern society. What this does is that this is clarified. It’s not that stress is good or bad. It’s a mechanism of adapting to demands of the environment.
Nancy: So what are the 5 things?
Mary: Okay. What this 5—I’m going to go over these really, really quickly or we could like do a show for each one of these.
Mary: And these are very, very surprising. You’ll love this. Okay, number 1, I just, I call sort of a blanket term complexity. What I mean by that is under stress on the mechanisms of what we call executive functioning and working memory, specifically the frontal lobe. The brain behind your—
Mary: —forehead and eyeballs.
Mary: And this kind of brain is what makes this distinctly human. This is what has made as leader of the pact, okay? Because what it allows us to do is to take our imagination and project into the future what we want to do and ultimately, why the stress or way the frontal lobe have evolved to how they are is because they have attenuated our stress. They are primary stress response organs. Because when you’re faced with the stressor, as an animal, you’ve got two choices. You can either change your body to fit the environment—so like, if you’re in a freezing cold environment and you’re just a regular animal, you can increase your thyroid hormone functioning, your fight or flight function in order to produce more heat, increase the metabolism or if you’re a human with a big fat frontal lobe, you can say “well I don’t need to do that. I can just show some clothes or create a fire or build a house.”
Nancy: Now let me just stop you for a minute, Mary.
Nancy: Because now I’m going to… I feel a crazy question coming on.
Mary: Go, ready, yes…
Nancy: So you know how people say… You know how people say, “Do I look fat in these jeans?” right? So now I’m going to turn around and say, “Honey, do you think I have a big fat frontal lobe?” it’s like crazy…. Oh my god…
Mary: That is actually a question to ask…
Nancy: That’s a question to ask, exactly.
Frank: Now what’s the acceptable answer?
Nancy: “Of course.” So what are the other—
Frank: Is that your frontal lobe right around your belly button?
Nancy: No… that’s criminal. That is criminal oh my goodness… Oh my goodness… I’m going to let it go, Frank. Every show I got to let something go, Mary.
Frank: Thank you, I appreciate that.
Nancy: So what are the other four, Mary? What are the other four things?
Mary: Well, okay, okay. So the problem with the frontal lobe is that when we over tax it. okay when we’re over cognitive. You see what I’m saying? We’re not meant to think and over strategize and plan and multitask to the level that we are today. This causes many, many stress-related illnesses—believe it or not, including… it is the well spring of how all mental illness and this is why we see a huge spike I mental illness.
Frank; I got—
Mary: [unclear] as well…
Frank: I’m going to try something. I’m going to interject a little bit of Frank into this.
Mary: Go right ahead.
Frank: So… what I heard you say in terms of complexity, we got into frontal lobe stuff and I just kind of…
Nancy: He checked out.
Frank; I wasn’t getting it.
Nancy: He checked out.
Frank: What I heard is complexity kind of equals multitasking, doing a lot of things or trying to do a lot of things and trying to manage a lot of things at once. Is that accurate?
Mary: That is accurate and our ancestors… I mean, we are put together to do small episodic period of this… activity. We are not meant to have it chronically in our face, day after day after day. That’s not how [unclear].
Frank: Okay. What’s number2? And I’m going to try to Frank that one. What you got?
Mary: You’ll love this… this is a good one… living in an unequal society. Living in a society where resources are very, very unequal and a lot of us can identify with this and it also contributes to a huge amount of stress-related up to the early mortality and disability especially for men. And the reason for this is that, you know, this gets a little bit geeky. But when you’re like at the bottom of the totem pole, you are basically facing the demands of the environment head on. You got the worse access to school, to adequate housing, safe neighborhood to the best jobs you got, usually the most dangerous or you know, exhausting jobs with the worse scheduling. I mean, everything—when you’re the guy at the bottom of the totem pole, you’re constantly having to be vigilant and when that happens, you are actually doing a [unclear] from a more stable aspect of your being to a more plastic, more adaptable and with that, if you remain in that state for too long, you’ll lose structural integrity. Your tissues actually lose structural integrity and disease becomes more frequent because you ran out of resources. You just don’t have the resources to keep equilibrium.
Frank: Being an ex-patriate, do you find that there’s a capitalism, socialism conversation in there? Somewhere?
Mary: It’s more… I wouldn’t blame… Okay and I’ve looked at this extensive… I wouldn’t blame capitalism. Pure capitalism is what you see at the farmer’s market or flea market when you have all these vendors that have the same equal [unclear], the same equal opportunities to sell their wares or services and you know, that’s [unclear] capitalism. That’s totally democratic.
What we’re looking at is a totalitarian fascist where you had so much corruption that they’ve destroyed the equal opportunity process. You’ve had the fat cats of—and this happens over and over and [unclear] doesn’t [unclear]. But understand that revolution and revolt like what we’re seeing now are the wellspring of having many, many people, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands if not millions or tens of millions, they’re hundred of millions under extreme stress. This is how society acts. This is how things become unstable. You haven’t looked at how human’s react through the light of—how they respond to stress.
Frank: Do you think the inequality conversation isn’t relevant in the US? Because certainly the farmers market is not—
Mary: It’s totally.
Mary: It’s totally relevant.
Mary: It’s totally relevant because we’re in a very highly unequal society. And by that are not living down Ecuador, I realized, this is plenty to go around. There really is. It’s not expensive to keep people basically covered so they’re not freaking out.
Frank: Okay, okay. Okay, what you got on number 3?
Mary: Number 3 is closely related to [unclear] social capital which is in a nutshell is lost of social support since the 1850s, that the participation in cultural, social religious groups has declined for [unclear]. We’re just not as social. We don’t know our neighbors. We’re not a social. And the same thing comes into effect. We are herd animals. We are basically meant to operate in groups because groups allow us protection from the direct ravages of the environment. When you have a group to protect you, you’re not having to go into that vigilant, plastic state where you’re always having to deal with demands of the environment head on, you have protection of your family or your social group. We’ve lost it. and that’s definitely something different down here in Latin America. That is a huge mitigator of stress is… yeah.
Frank: But now you have social media herds. You’ve got just the herd has changed. How do you incorporate that into the conversation?
Mary: I can’t exactly address that but there’s something that has to be said about actual human contact…
Mary: And actually like knowing your neighbors. I mean, the neighborhood, the community. And get all this is like been screwed up. I mean, you can’t even find a job in the city where you’re educated so you have to move half way across the country and again, this destroys communities and not having good jobs to where you feel comfortable with like really putting roots in the community because okay, I’m going to be fired or laid off and I’m going to have to move another thousand miles… So this is a very, very distractive, extremely distractive.
Nancy: And I think that the other thing that’s interesting to point out about what you said about these online social communities, is that often… I’m wondering if we get… we can get confused by being in communication with someone online liking their videos or posts doesn’t exactly give the kind of support that Mary’s talking about and yet the connection to all these people and groups can give you the illusion that you’re in community. I tend to measure my community actually by how much my own stress I can bring to that community and know that I’ll be supported. I don’t do that with… I don’t do that online.
Frank: Oh don’t bring no stress in here…
Nancy: See what I’m saying, Mary? Frank and I are in an uncommunity. We just happen to be in the same place at the same time for a particular period of time.
Frank: Speaking of speaking of Nancy…
Nancy: Oh my god…
Frank: Something you said I want to challenge. So I’ve got one, I’ve challenged you, Mary and now I got a challenge for Nancy.
Nancy: Oh gee. Okay.
Frank: You said that a lot of the advances that we’ve made have been—
Nancy: Designed to make life easier for us, more convenient.
Frank: That’s not what you said.
Nancy: More convenient I said.
Frank: No, that’s not what you said.
Nancy: Ooh what did I say?
Frank: You said designed to improve life.
Frank: Alright. See that’s different to me. Convenience is different than designed to improve life.
Nancy: Improve the quality of life…
Frank: That’s the same. Convenience and I think the quality of life—I think those are very similar.
Frank: But improving life is different. And so I see… convenience and task. Convenience is like a way to make a task easier. That’s how I see it.
Frank: So a car—it doesn’t improve your life. It makes getting you to where you want to go easier.
Nancy: Which then reduces my stress, doesn’t it?
Frank: No, not necessarily.
Frank: Because taking the bus isn’t necessarily stressful. Walking isn’t necessarily stressful. In fact, walking is a form of exercise which can reduce stress.
Frank: Now if you own a car and it’s a stretch to say people who own cars aren’t stressed.
Nancy: No question.
Frank: I just…
Nancy: Well people who own cars and don’t have GPS got one for [unclear] and the other one on the banana peel… You just say… So you may have one… you know, piece of technology or advanced or tech—
Frank: Yes. And you get dependent on another one?
Nancy: Oh my goodness…
Frank: So I guess my point is, many of the advances that we made are not to improve life, they’re to improve task.
Frank: And there’s a difference. I really believe… the one improvement that I see as hands down… something that has improved life is penicillin.
Frank: But yet, I don’t really know if over time, penicillin is a life improver–
Nancy: Penicillin just extended life…
Frank: It may but it also given where we are around antibiotics now…
Frank: Developing staff infections and you know… penicillin resistant infections, there may become a super bug that just wipes us out as a result of having had penicillin. So it may seem like it was an advancement but it’s possibly, it will destroy us all. That’s just a theory. So when I think about advancements, I don’t really know if an iPad, an iPhone, a car is truly an advancement. It’s just made a given task easier. What do you think, Mary?
Mary: Well, I mean you’re definitely on to something… You’re really, really kind of grasping the deep existential aspects of this…
Nancy: Don’t call him deep in existential, Mary. I got to sit here with this guy… now he’s deep and existential. That just killed it for him.
Frank: The hate… The hate, the hate… Please continue, Mary. You were saying something really important.
Mary: I not sure if all that is important but I’ll try… Yeah, let me tell you what the definition of stress is. Maybe it’ll sort of segway into what you were talking about Frank. The definition of stress is the rate of adjustment that you undergo in order to adapt whatever environment you happen to find yourself in. so there’s two aspects. There’s the individual agency and then you have the step of the environment [unclear] some of it is better and some it depending on environment is more hostile. And so, yeah, exactly. It’s more… Frank, you hit the nail on the head. It’s more deep just flat out complexity. It’s flat out just moving parts that we have that our ancestors did not. In dealing with this, and again, you think about it, if you look at it like say as a thermodynamic system, any system… I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s a car, if it’s like say a bicycle versus a car as far as complexity or if it’s community or if it’s something with like a lot of technology… The more complex the system is, the more [unclear] breakdown that you’re going to have because it’s got more moving parts.
That’s basically all you have to take home. The thing with like treating stress as a risk assessment, is that… since people don’t have a vocabulary now and I want to give them the vocabulary and because stress is probably the biggest risk that we have in our society right now is to understand that the more complex that you have, the to pick and choose your battle, to pick and choose what is more worth… your expenditure of energy as a human being to deal with. There’s a lot of stuff that you can tug out that will very likely add 5, 10, maybe 20 years of your life quality is.
And then there’s stuff that you do that’s kind of part of the machine that is very likely especially as you get older. It’s very likely statistically apt to make you quite sickly and prone to a very, very risky breakdown which could of course your family, especially if you’re a sole bead winner.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with author and researcher, Dr. Mary Wingo about stress. Dr. Wingo, what are you up to and how can our listeners find you, your book, whatever have you?
Mary: Yes. Well, first off they can go to my website marywingo.com and they can get a bunch of free information because it’s such a really, really important. This is extremely important especially right now where people are quite fearful about their future, what’s going on in the US and in Europe too. Basically, all modernized societies right now.
And they can pick up a copy of my book, “The Impact of the Human Stress Response”. This is a must-have. It’s very inexpensive and it’s a must-have for anybody who’s trying to get a hold of this, to really, really to get a handle and to get their head around this. Additionally, I am available for workshops to help set up frameworks as well as consulting and possibly tutoring as well for health professionals so they can disseminate this knowledge of further [unclear]…
Frank: Number four. The last one was loss of social capital or social support. What’s number four?
Mary: Number 4 is totally different. This is going to shock you. It is a derangement or depletion of the human biome and what the biome is are those critters, those little microorganisms of different sorts that have co-evolved over millions of years in our gut, on our skin and in our orifices. Basically, what they do, they’re extensions of our body. They’re extensions of our bodily functions.
So for instance, they’re involved in synthesis of certain vitamins, of other digestive functioning, of immune signalling, the endocrine signalling, cellular growth signalling. So basically, we have like certain ratios of microorganisms on and in us and because of the exposure especially the chemical stress of various like say processed food, antibiotics, you know, the various chemicals we have [unclear], industrial, you name it… stuff that really didn’t exist maybe much 50, 100 years ago or even 20 years ago. Well, because of that, we’ve lost a lot of our microbial friends and with that, we’ve lost a lot of basic physiological functioning.
Nancy: So now we’re…
Mary: When you do that, your body’s going to go into the stress response and that’s going to be a potent stressor for your body to contend with since it’s out of equilibrium.
Nancy: Okay so—
Mary: It’s trying to keep you alive, it’s just trying to keep you adapting whether you’re well or not.
Nancy: This is why the vitamin shop is making a gazillions dollars on probiotics and digestive enzymes and I submit to you the lotion and potion industry is going to kill us because… because I’m a firm believer that if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.
Mary: That’s right, that’s right.
Mary: And that’s a big mistake. And I follow that myself and just like for my own… Because I follow, I totally practice what I preach. But I bet you I’ve taken minimum 10 years off of myself just following this simple routine.
Frank: That’s… I like that. If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.
Nancy: Don’t put it on your skin. Your skin is an organ.
Mary: That’s right. Exactly.
Nancy: Yeah, yeah.
Frank: What about other organs?
Nancy: If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on there either? Mary? This has been the Frank Love show and I just want to thank you…
Frank: I think we’ve woken up Jeff.
Mary: No comment. No comment.
Frank: Oh boy… Yes, yes, yes…
Jeff: That does lead to a better life quality.
Frank: Yeah, I’m all for it.
Nancy: So Mary, let us move on with the interview.
Frank: What about [unclear]…
Nancy: Here we go…
Frank: Maybe we can narrow it down if you can’t digest it… don’t put it on your skin.
Nancy: Don’t put it on your skin. Same soup, different bowl.
Nancy: Whatever… But Mary, you talked about how living in a society that has more moving parts by extension, generates more stress and then you talked about living in Ecuador and so I’m saying, well can we really take anything from a society like Ecuador? If it doesn’t have as many moving parts, then let’s say the average New Yorker is going to be like, “Don’t talk to me about Ecuador. I’m in [unclear]”
Frank: The moving parts… Capital part of the world…
Nancy: Yes. So in a place where let’s say like Washington DC, or New York where people are just trying to get through the next 5 or 10 minutes, if you say well in Ecuador they do this, or in Ecuador they do that, it doesn’t feel relevant and…
Mary: Well it’s because honestly, there’s no other way to… we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that just persistent, nonstop modernization and I’m not sure if I exactly caught process but just the change, the technological change in modernization is completely beneficial. I mean, yeah there have been many beneficial aspects. We don’t want to throw out the baby with a bath water. Of course Ecuador is actually quite advanced. They have adapted the good aspects of it. But I mean, it’s just a trade-off. I mean it’s not bad or good. It’s just, depending I mean, do you want to be part of the most medicated society in the world with millenials and gen-Xers that aren’t reproducing and rumors that are actually quite sick in comparison to their parents from the great depression… I mean it depends… [unclear] I just want your listeners to have this information that they can make the judgment call themselves. A lot of people don’t even have access to this type of information so that you even know what they’re doing, risk, the well-being of their family, or the well-being, the ability to function and survive since you do need a lot of money in our society. The ability to keep that machine going is becoming very, very difficult for a lot of families.
Mary: And so and then the good news is that a lot of these is preventable. If this is in your control, you don’t have to depend on a classy medical system or a classy government system where nobody knows what the hell is going on. You know, you can take this on yourself. Just like I said, just like you would. You can make the risk assessment whether to smoke or not. This is something perfectly doable and viable and it’s very inextesive. It’s not something that you have to be wealthy or insured even to capitalize [unclear].
Frank: I got a weight in a piece there also.
Frank: You can live a version of minimalistically—or if that’s a word—in DC also. So one of the things is, there’s a keeping up with the Jones’ component that you can opt out of.
Mary: That’s right.
Frank: There’s a iPhone, android thing… every time a new one comes out—
Nancy: You have to have to have it.
Frank: —that’s a stress. You got to have it.
Mary: That’s right.
Frank: You can opt out of that.
Frank: You can opt out of having a car note.
Frank: You can own a car that’s reliable that you own for 10 years that you bought for $5000.
Frank: That’s possible. And so that’s a way of opting out of that lifestyle. You can own a home that has been maybe passed down in generations in your family; you can own a home with another family; you can not own a home and just opt out of that lifestyle all together—
Frank: —and just choose to rent—
Frank: —and when it’s time to go, when things are not good here anymore, we’re going to rent somewhere else… There are types of ways to opt out of the keeping up with the Jones’ lifestyle.
Frank: That is…
Nancy: Killing a lot of people.
Frank: It’s killing us but it’s also the… in many ways. It’s the purpose of marketing. The purpose of marketing is to get you to buy something or spend your money on something. And if you kind of close those channels off to the point where you’re just not—you don’t watch tv—
Nancy: You’re in it but not of it?
Frank: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Frank: And you’re not even… I’ve heard some… I’ve heard a family years ago. I was watching a television show or the news… I was watching something. And they were… they had an agreement with their children where they can’t buy anything that they see on television, that they see on a commercial…
Nancy: Oh okay…
Frank: And it’s a way of opting out of the whole…
Nancy: The bombardment of advertising…
Nancy: …directing your attention in your dollars.
Nancy: And using your children to do it because they’ll most certainly do.
Frank: Yeah. Absolutely.
Mary: Can I interject something about the marketing phenomenon?
Mary: You have to understand that the US, it’s where masters of anything—oh I mean, we’re masters of a lot. But we are masters of the concept and the practice of marketing. I mean, we created this discipline, business and academic discipline and we are the absolute leaders of the world of the science of marketing. We created it, then we in the 50s after World War II, when the [unclear] they were buddies so they created the consumer’s society [unclear] in order to create a richer banking system and all that and to stimulate men. And so, our culture created that. It is much less prevalent I especially developing countries, the art of marketing is not as simple or more old school like classifieds and newspapers rather than like say Google advertised.
Frank: Got it. You… anything, Nancy?
Nancy: Yeah… My head is kind of just spinning with stuff, Mary. Okay so I’m going in my mind, I mean on one track and I’m trying to be on another track in the conversation. So I hear Mary saying a couple of things. She’s talking about stress for a more aggregate level. So it’s not about say just breathing deeply or getting a meditation practice.
Mary: That’s right.
Nancy: That’s what we in an individual level. You’re talking about what we do as a collective. I’m thinking about a friend of mine who lives in Spain and she had travelled there before she moved. And one of the things she came back with is “Nans, they like shut down for 3 hours in the middle of the day for siesta though.” I mean, everything stops.
Frank: For siesta? What is siesta?
Nancy: Yes. It’s a time when you take a rest.
Frank: During the day? Every day?
Nancy: Every single day. Business is closed, restaurants closed. Now, what that means is that things stay open a little later. However, people have an opportunity to stop, to refresh themselves and then get back into the day. And so even though this is a modern complex society, they take that time out and then it makes them more available all the way around going into the rest of the day.
I know that if I’m not mistaken, Google, because I’m thinking about how this works out on a corporate level, Google has sleep suites. So if you get tired, there’s a place right there at work you can go to take a nap and come back and jump back into your day. If they had a place where I work, to where I can go take a nap every once in while, oh my goodness…
Frank: You mean… on with the approval of your supervisor? Not like what you do now?
Nancy: Again, Mary, I’m going to let that go.
Mary: Can I interject about Google? Actually…
Mary: Actually Google is a… employee workplace stress is probably one of the largest, if not largest cause that most complex institutions or businesses have. Google because they do hire geniuses, and they need a lot of performance…
Mary: So whenever you have a situation [unclear] humans when you want high performance, then you have to do stuff like that. you have to do stuff that decreases the usual components that cause workplace stress.
Nancy: Yes. And Mary…
Mary: So yeah. I mean, a 10, 15 minute nap ain’t going to mean anything if you’ve got some sort of program or that’s creating some sort of app that’s going to generate tens of billions.
Nancy: But here’s the thing about what you’re saying… on a couple of levels. Number one, a lot of what makes a person a genius is how we listen to them. So if I, a guy has a genius in one area, I know a guy he’s a genius in anatomy and physiology, he fumbles the ball everywhere else.
Frank: It’s not anatomy and physiology that I’m a genius about…
Nancy: And I’m not talking about this guy, right? However… So number one, a lot of what makes a person a genius—and I’m not taking anything away from genius is how you listen to a person. So what you’re saying to me is that if I don’t work for Google, then I don’t warrant as an employee, a certain quality of work environment that would maximize my productivity.
Mary: Oh no, no, no…
Nancy: Now, I know that’s not what you’re saying. I’m saying at these higher corporate levels, if the guy who’s running Google is saying, “You know what? I need a place where my employees can get a descent bite to eat without having to leave the building and hustle through traffic if a guy’s tanking, I need a place for them to go and grab a few minutes grab a cat nap so that he can be more productive. We have is businesses and agencies that want people to be more productive and yet nothing is being done on the human side to aid that productivity. So—
Mary: That’s right. That’s right.
Nancy: —you call yourself automating. So okay, we’re going to automate this particular process and now what used to take you an hour, should take you 15 minutes. That may be true but then what you’re going to do is give me more of it to do. So now, you’ve not helped me, you’ve helped yourself. Theoretically, you’ve helped yourself because if I can’t decompress some place, then my productivity takes a dive. Your expectations go through the roof and then I’m not able to meet them and bang, we have mre stress.
Mary: That’s right. That’s right.
Frank: A cycle?
Mary: Yeah. And if you… I don’t know how well you keep up. I keep up with the economics and the finance because this is all related to human stress. We’re losing our competitive edge.
Mary: I mean, just constantly having people stressed out, freak out that they’re going to lose their job especially now. and just piling it on, piling it on… it ultimately destroys. [unclear] we’re seeing that. despite all the lies and manipulation of corporate earnings, corporate earnings are actually tanking and due to the elite—again, this is all due to the elite just being unregulated and taking more of their fair share and just saying to hell with everybody else and to hell with even like the company because they’re getting their golden parachute, they don’t care. So they don’t care whether this particular institution, government office, branch or anything like that exist beyond them because they’re getting theirs and they’re not going to work there 20 years, they’re probably going to be there 3 to 5 years like everybody else. And so they get their golden parachute. It is not dealing with human stress especially this highly automated society. It’s destroying profitability. It’s a huge destruction of [unclear]. You’re absolutely right.
Frank: I’m curious about this and there’s no reason… other than you being interested in the topic, you certainly haven’t said anything about Arabic or Islam, Islamic countries. But there’s… people who are Muslim, they pray 5 times a day.
Frank: And that kind of seems like an opportunity to decompress…
Frank: How do you see or are you aware of a lesser level of stress in Muslim countries or primarily Muslim Islam practicing countries?
Mary: Well what’s going on and this is more geographical than it is religious and of course I see this in a completely different aspect is because a lot of many of the… of course Islam [unclear] more than a billion folks. So it’s quitely dispersed. A lot about what we think is the Middle East. Well the Middle East is very resources rich especially oil and like oil pipelines and very strategic, like Israel is great strategic base for the US to get their entire building done. So a lot of what we think of the Muslim countries like Syria and Iraq where through actions, not just the US but of Europe as well and others, we [unclear] these countries trying to extract their resources, that’s usually oil or some other strategic.
So it’s very stressful and that’s again, look at the [unclear] refugee crises exist when you had literally over 20 years. Millions of people killed, you’re going to have a very traumatized society and of course, when you bob the hell out of it, you don’t have any jobs or any infrastructure or schools, well of course you’re going to want to go to greener pastures even though you may not want to. So we’re looking… these particular societies [unclear] been under attack through empire building—again, this is all the fat cats, unregulated, not being stopped, there’s no other reason. There’s no other moral reason.
So yeas, it’s very stressful but again, these are what’s called instead of hot societies which change [unclear], they’re more traditional. So yeah, you’ve got what works, what’s worked with a lot of these societies for thousands of years and they know in many ways how to mitigate stress and yes, absolutely, the religion is a giant mitigator. This is why it has evolved no matter what the society is. Religion is a giant mitigator of stress.
Frank: Well as we wrap up, we’re missing one thing and that’s number five. What’s number five?
Mary: Ahh number 5. Okay, real quick. This is easy and this kind of relates to number 4. This is just flat out chemical stress. Again, this isn’t just depletion of the biome. This is the fact that we are exposing ourself to novel chemical compounds that didn’t exist. We don’t have the mechanisms. It takes many, many thousands of years to evolve new types of enzymes to break down to compounds…
Frank: Is that kind of mean pollution?
Mary: And we just haven’t evolved in… when we are exposed to this and this includes pollution of the air, soil and water then we go into a stress response to try to keep equilibrium and that also results in a huge amount of [unclear] worldwide, not just in the US but worldwide.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’ve been talking with author and researcher, Dr. Mary Wingo about stress. One more time Dr. Wingo, what are you up to and how can our listeners find you?
Mary: ell your listeners can come to my website marywingo.com for a ton of free information. They can sign up for a free portion of my book which outline true effective actionable stress management tips based in science. They can also pick up a copy of my book “The Impact of the Human Stress Response”, one of the most important books of our age right now and it’s a humanitarian project. They can also contact me if they need my help as far as consulting, tutoring or some sort of educational framework together to get this message out.
Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed improvements of life versus the improvements of task, stress responses and causes of stress. Thank you to my co-host, Nancy; thank to Jeff Newman, my engineer; and thank you to my guest, Dr. Patricia Wingo. You’ve been great.
Frank: Dr. Mary Wingo. I’m sorry.
Nancy: He’s a little stressed, Mary.
Frank: I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had hanging out with today’s ensemble.
As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that I hope you create a relation that’s as loving and accepting as possible.
Let us know what you think of today’s show at facebook.com/relationshipflove, on Twitter at @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. If you’re listening via Blog Talk Radio, make sure you like us there and if via iTunes, make sure you subscribe so that you can receive each week’s show.
This is Frank love.
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