Imagine walking into a room, 40 advisers staring at you, a hopeful gaze and the promise of change in their eyes, papers stacked to the ceiling waiting for your signature —what seems a simple task— but in reality will actually affect millions of people’s lives. Just another day at the office? If it’s the oval office, I don’t think so.
2016 Presidential Race
The 2016 Presidential Race is upon us and it has me thinking, is there another job more stressful in the world than being the president of the United States? Most of us go through our daily lives feeling relatively “stressed.” Work, money (the leading cause), relationships and health problems run through our minds all day and, of course, the weight of our lives may come crashing down sometimes.
Stress in Daily Life
On a daily basis, we all claim we’re “stressed.” Taking the bar exam, meeting your girlfriend’s mother for the first time, interviewing for that dream job— may cause you to feel nervous. But running a country and being responsible for over 300 million people, now that’s stressful.
How Stressed is the President?
The leader of the free world deals with a level of stress we cannot even imagine. On top of the issues staring at them when they walk into any meeting throughout the day, they have families and their own health to worry about. No one can argue that the presidency is the most demanding job in the world. Forget playing the game of politics, you’re expected to make quick decisions every day that affect the well-being of millions.
If you compared past presidents in their first year of office to the last, the effects of stress are right in front of our eyes. Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama had a full head of gray hair and dark circles that stretch almost as far down as their chin, as they neared the end of their terms. Research has shown stress impacts the president stronger than the average person, aging them twice as fast.
So far, Hillary Clinton has confirmed her seat for the democrats and Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio for the republicans. While all may have significant experience in politics, can they handle the stress that is to come?
What is Stress?
What exactly is stress? And how does it affect your body? Stress is the body’s response to moments in life that make us feel threatened, upset, angry, or frustrated. When this happens, our bodies immediately launch into “fight-or-flight” mode as a natural coping method.
Stress can have a positive or negative effect. Some have the ability to cope. For these lucky ones, stress actually gives them a boost to rise up and overcome the challenge. For the rest of us, stress overwhelms and makes everything worse. When we are under too much stress, it starts to affect every part of our lives starting with health, mood, jobs, and relationships.
What is “Fight-or-flight” mode? If we’re stressed, our brain signals the adrenal gland to produce hormones known as cortisol and adrenaline, which increases our heart rate and breathing. It actually causes our blood vessels to dilate, making blood flow quickly to the muscles in our legs (just in case we have to physically run).
How Our Body Reacts to Stress
Normally, our bodies should be able to relax after a certain amount of time. But when stress sticks around or keeps coming back, it begins to affect our immune system, increasing our risk for serious diseases such as heart disease, sleep disorders, digestive problems, depression, anxiety and memory impairment. Studies have shown that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. That’s because stress contributes to high blood pressure, cholesterol, stomach and bowel issues. To bring it home even further, the effects of psychological stress on the body’s ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of many diseases including cancer.
Types of Stress
Stress can be short and long-term. Short-term stress is the type that only lasts a few minutes and the average person is able to be overcome. However, long-term stress, brought on by being, say the president of the United States, can last longer with a much stronger effect, causing harmful changes in our immune system. Think of your immune system as the soldiers defending and protecting your body against foreign enemies like bacteria and viruses. If the immune system gets stressed, it becomes weakened by a stress hormone called corticosteroid, making our bodies less able to fight illness, and more prone to premature aging and depression.
To the future Mr. or Madame President, here are some tips for coping with stress:
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep when you can
- Play when you can
- Drink a lot of water
- Keep Purell close for all that schmoozing
- No fast food
- If you must drink alcohol, choose red wine
- Take one day off during the week to spend with your family