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Bald truth about stress

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Following on from the recent National Stress Awareness Day, the Plymouth Evening Herald’s Martin Freeman explains what really gets him stressed.

I was born stressed. I came out screaming and didn’t stop for the first two years.

Then I matured. On the outside I appeared calm and contented.

That’s because I’d quit howling on the outside and had started screaming on the inside.

I was stressed by everything.

I was afraid of the dark – and the light.

The dark was full of beasts and aliens with huge, veined heads and bulbous eyes which I’d seen on the Mars Invaders bubble gum cards which my older brothers left lying around to give me stress.

The light was clean and clinical. Just like the operating theatre in the late-night horror film about brain surgery going wrong which I didn’t see, but which my brothers described to me in graphic detail just to spook me.

I know. You’re thinking, “Why didn’t his parents stop all this?”.

They tuck you up, your mum and dad.

But they don’t understand.

You see, stress is a modern invention. Nobody was ever stressed in the 1950s. How could you be, in a bright cheery world of Doris Day, gingham tablecloths, home-knit jumpers and all the Spam you could eat?

The dam of all that post-war cheerfulness broke, and I came along.

I got stressed because I didn’t get enough attention (the house was always full of brothers and cousins and their friends) and stressed because I got too much attention.

I used to throw things into the fire (tea towels, woolly hats and slippers) to get attention, then got stressed when that got the attention I deserved. Ouch.

School wasn’t half stressful because I wasn’t wholly useless.

I was nearer the top than the bottom so I was pushed hard in a vain attempt to get me to the top and achieve my potential.

But my only true potential was to get worried. So I worried about failing exams which I usually passed and then when I passed them I got anxious about the fact that I’d got incredibly stressed beforehand, which obviously proved that I didn’t fully understand the answers I’d learned which meant that, sooner or later, I’d be found out and fail terribly.

At puberty, I should have been cheered up because I didn’t get a spotty face. But I was anxious that everybody else had spots; I obviously wasn’t normal.

Then I got stressed because everybody of my age was having sex and I wasn’t.

Then when I did, I got stressed that she would get pregnant.

Or that she would dump me.

Which she did because I was too stressed to be much fun.

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