This is a test . . . Please stop what you’re doing and take this test.

This is a test . . . Please stop what you’re doing and take this test. It won’t take long.

This is a test.  It’s only a test.  If it were an actual event your arms would be burning and you would have a headache right now.  Here’s the test.  Take two cans of soup, and stand with your arms extended straight out shoulder height with one can of soup in each hand.  OK, got it.  I’ll wait while you do the test.  Go ahead.  No really, give it a try.

How long were you able to stand with your arms fully extended with a can of soup in each hand?  A typical can of soup weighs around 10 3/4 ozs.  Less than a pound.  How long could you do it?  Most people are not going to be able to do it very long.  Even though the weight is insignificant, over time it becomes heavier and heavier until your muscles collapse under the pressure of a 10 3/4 oz can of soup.
Now, let’s translate that into stress.  How much stress can you carry on a daily basis before you collapse?  Your level might seem insignificant to you, but you might be surprised.  I don’t think my life is overly stressful, but a decade ago I got a real wake-up call about stress.

I got up at my normal 5:00 am time and went to the gym to teach a Spinning® class.  We had our typical workout.  It’s always somewhere between moderate to hard if you’re working out with me.  I do my lighter workouts when I exercise alone.  I came home and took a shower, ate breakfast, read the paper and lost my memory.

I didn’t realize anything was unusual until my wife asked a question that I couldn’t answer.  “Who was in your cycling class this morning?”  “Did I teach a cycling class this morning?”  She looked at me like I was nuts.  I’ve seen that look before.  So she asked another question, and I didn’t know the answer.  She asked if I was kidding her.  I guess it’s like a gentleman who was about to have brain surgery.  His doctor called his wife in for a consultation prior to the surgery on her husband and said, “There is a chance that he may have brain damage.”  To which she responded, “How would we know?”

My wife thought I was kidding.  Finally, she realized that I didn’t know a lot of events that had happened in the previous 6 months.   I was taken to the hospital and found that I had transient global amnesia.

What caused it?  The cause was labeled as stress.  I didn’t feel like I was under stress, but an outsider looking in would have thought I was under a great amount of stress.  I had gotten so accustomed to holding my cans of soup straight out that I didn’t even notice they were getting heavy, but my body and my brain did.
How long can you hold the two cans of soup before your body gives in and demands that you drop them?  My experience led to more time off, less work on the weekends, shorter more realistic days, more exercise, better diet and more leisure activities.  I haven’t had a brain dump since then, but it was a great eye-opener for me and my family.  How long can you hold your cans of soup?