At some point this semester I began screaming at my boyfriend, “I don’t have time for a body!” I was having a pulsating migraine, my skin was breaking out, I had had no sex drive for weeks, and had an endocrinologist appointment and blood test the next morning prior to three classes that day. I was having an anxiety attack at 1a.m.
Everyone says college is stressful. I have found that no longer having the body of a twenty year old makes it exhausting. Running around a hilly campus, trying to get to class on time, parking about a mile from any buildings. All of this physical activity is also time consuming, adding stress to days packed with classes, work, homework, making dinner, buying cat food, paying bills, keeping in touch with friends and family, attempting to relax, and trying even harder to sleep. I often find my inner dialogue about stress going something like: “It’s because I’m a woman” or “It’s because I’m not upper middle class.” I have many found my stress triggers to generally be gender or class oriented.
I found the following documentary on stress very interesting. The director, John Heminway posits stress as not only as detrimental to mental health, but as someting that can kill the body over time through exposure to dangerous levels of stress hormones. It also argues that stress levels are relational to class structure, with lower rung workers experiencing higher, and more deadly, levels of stress hormones. The documentary follows Stanford University Neurobiologist Robert Supalski in his studies of stress hormone levels of baboons in Kenya. He measured both adrenaline and glucocorticoids in these baboons and found differing levels according to the gender and social class of the baboons. The non-alpha males have higher stress hormones than the alpha males. When most of the alpha males died off due to tuberculosis infection, the stress levels of all the other baboons in the group went down. This documentary is very much worth watching, I believe all parts of it are on youtube and hope you can check it out.