Stress: constraining force or influence: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Also, a state resulting from a stress; especially : one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium — Joseph Shoben

The definition from Merriam Webster feels incomplete. Lacking. For a person looking up the meaning, those carefully strung together phrases cannot even begin to portray what stress really is. What it looks like, feels like. How it can cloud your vision and keep you up at night until you feel as if your head might explode before you even make it to Duke.

What stress really is:

  • Heartburn and headaches. Tight muscles and aching shoulders.
  • Wanting so desperately to get published. And fearing that you never will.
  • Owing $5,000 in medical bills. Which you cannot pay.
  • Not being allowed to drive for months and therefore inconveniencing many, many friends – even though they swear it’s not an inconvenience, but you know they’d rather not drive across the bridge a couple times a week or pick up your lunch every day.
  • Living off one income thanks to a business that’s not making enough money and a husband who makes less than that.
  • Getting laid off and knowing that you can’t start a new job for at least a month. And interviewing? Don’t even think about it. No one wants to talk to a girl who just had her head cut open – even if you did feel well enough to go out and crank the personality up a notch, which you probably won’t after said head opening.
  • Excising all of the knowledge about your current job and company – that no one else knows – and compiling it in concise, step-by-step instructions for people who have never done any of it before.
  • Applying for a job you’d not only be good at, but one you’d really enjoy, and knowing they can’t pay what you need to get by.
  • Wondering if you’ll even be able to get back to TN for the birth of your nephew and subsequent visit from the fam in Tokyo because if you do manage to find a job in this economy, there’s no guarantee they’ll let you take time off so soon after starting.
  • Brain surgery in T-minus 8 days
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