Production Sound & Video

Fall 2017

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Page 33 of 39

STRESS MANAGEMENT As members of the entertainment industry, we face some of the most adverse jobsite conditions and hours in the developed world. We spend seventy-plus hours a week on set during a regular TV season or a feature film. We are often exposed to extreme weather conditions, long hours, environmental and health hazards that can range anywhere from rattlesnakes, structurally compromised buildings, airborne pathogens and hazardous chemicals, etc. But we work because it is a central part of our lives and we creatively thrive through it. However, as exhilarating and interesting the job may be, the sheer magnitude of daily logistical efforts and close personal interactions can cause stress. Our bodies are equipped with a natural coping mechanism, which is activated when a potentially dangerous situation is detected. It is called the "fight or flight" response. It always proceeds in the same manner: the danger stimulus, the removal of the danger and a state of relaxation. While this mechanism has been crucial to our survival as a species, it is designed to only activate in isolated instances. "Fight or flight" served our ancestors well as they fought off natural predators. Yet as the developed world becomes increasingly safe for humans, the American Psychological Association reports that stress levels in the twenty-first century are higher than ever. Today, many of our stressors come in a much subtler form and stem from a broad variety of factors. Whether it is increased productivity demands, muscle strains from booming increasingly long digital takes, dealing with trying personalities or never being appreciated for the quality of work we produce. All of these causes can trigger a "fight or flight" response. But we got so used to working in demanding environments that we may be unaware of the body's reaction. And whether we are aware of it or not, the constant "on-alert" state is cumulative and takes a toll on our physical and emotional well-being. Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist at the Rockefeller University, recently revealed that exposure to three weeks of stress can change mammalian brain-architecture. Forcing his rats to swim, among other adverse activities, shrank the dendrites Occupational stress has long been acknowledged as a serious health hazard in the industrialized workforce. It is as an underlying factor of hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, substance abuse, and it does not distinguish between ethnicity, gender or class. Workplace stress is also directly linked to chronic psychological disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks and major depression. We are often exposed to extreme weather conditions, environmental and health hazards that can range anywhere from rattlesnakes, structually compromised buildings, airborne pathogens and hazardous chemicals, etc. in their amygdalae, the parts of the brain that control emotional responses, decision-making and memory. Some of these effects are reversible, but such changes increase the risk of anxiety disorders and depression. McEwen also linked chronic stress to a reduction in the overall neuron number. WHAT IS STRESS? Stress is a household term used to describe a hormonal surge in our bodies resulting from physical and mental strain in adverse circumstances. Hans Selye, Director of University of Montreal's Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, first coined the term stress in his letter to the British journal Nature in 1936. Selye's "general adaptation syndrome" (GAS) study, which was later renamed "stress response," revealed morphological changes in mammals due to prolonged and excessive secretion of naturally occurring stress hormones. COPING WITH STRESS Our bodies are vastly resilient while malleable to the environment. Neuroplasticity, the ability of neurons to reorganize to compensate for injury and disease, allow us to recover to some extent. Kelly McGonigal, Psychologist at Stanford University, suggests that altering how we process stress determines its detriment or benefit. Living without it is improbable, but learning how to use it to your advantage can lead to an overall healthier & happier existence. This means ending a stress cycle in rest and recovery, whether by not checking emails & social media on the weekends, taking more holidays or going for a walk in the middle of the day. In the right mindset, stress can even be performance enhancing. Even Hans Selye distinguished stress reposes into "eustress" and "distress" later on in his career. But how do you get there? We thought it best to harness the knowledge from some of our most esteemed colleagues, who have been in this line of work for decades. They have all found engaging ways to process stress and lead healthy and productive lives. Here are their thoughts, please enjoy!

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