ONCE A WEEK, well-informed multimedia students land inside Studio Six at Tipperary Institute where they have 60 minutes to produce a half-hour podcast. You can tell there's anxiety in the air because you can smell sweaty bodies at work. That perspiration is good stress. I think college students need healthy doses of good stress so they know how to handle themselves in the real world. Yet several of my colleagues are hired to reduce stress for students. This state-funded seesaw creates interesting collegial tension in my workplace.
"Stress" gets scribbled on doctors' statements as the reason students collect their education grants on their backs at home in bed. "Stress" is the action word batted about in conversations about workplace bullying. "Stress management" fills hours of course material for managers.
When did we concede on the rather extraordinary idea that arousal, whether physiological or psychological, is harmful to health? What athlete or military officer thinks the flight-or-flight response is really designed to kill us?
The arts are predicated on emotional arousal. "Jarhead" would not compel without climatic scenes and sounds. Mozart's music moves us. A pub full of spectators yells and grimaces with the technical and psychological edge demonstrated on the televised pitch that they feel while sloshing their drinks far from the field of play. You cannot live in a state of perpetual calm.
Good stress is not "strain" because good stress fires you up and takes you to a higher level. I'm off to stress my body by swimming 200 metres in a quiet pool. By our soft Irish logic, I can tax my body and achieve physical fitness, yet I will be cautioned when I tax or strain the brains of teenaged college students. Not that I am going to change anything. Come with deodorant if you take my classes in Media Writing, Public Relations or Multimedia Programming. In my classroom, we stress-test your performance before we assign your grades.