Stress Made Simple – A Primer
Stress is a common topic of discussion now, with levels up to 100 times higher in the average person than our forebears just last century.
Yet, stress is very often misunderstood. Let’s make a few things clear so we’re all on the same page.
Stress means that the homeostatic state of the body has been compromised. Homeostasis is, according to Wikipedia: “ the property of a system in which a variable (for example, the concentration of a substance in solution, or its temperature) is actively regulated to remain very nearly constant”
So in essence, it is everything that disrupt this stability. We’re not going into details about how the body reacts to manage this, but rather on the cause of stress itself.
We usually represent stress as… a stressful situation. Anything that puts some tension in the air, from being cut while changing lane in your car to a short delay on a project at work, to extremes like divorce and marriage, or the death of a relative. Yes, I said both divorce and marriage are life stressors. Whether positive or negatives, big life changes impose stress on us
The truth is that, while these are great examples of situational stress, which puts emotions at an high, it is any and all things that disrupts the way the body functions, emotionally, mentally and physically. The first two are usually well-understood, if often under-estimated. The third part, the physical one, is not.
Every situation is going to have mental and emotional components, and while the resulting stress depends on how we deal with these, at the end of the day, it all adds up.
What can also add up, and is not as obvious, is the physical stress. This can range from working out too much, or not enough, to being physically injured, up to and including lack of sleep and undetected food intolerance who promotes low-grade, sub-clinical inflammation.
The Bathtub Metaphor
Imagine a bath, if you would. This is your capacity to tolerate stress. You can have 3 types of situation that will over-tax your capacity to manage it:
1 – One big cause of stress. Some major life changes such as being hit by a car (physical), the death of a loved one (emotional) or a crisis at work (mental)
This is represented in our bath analogy by having one faucet turned full-on and running the bath quickly
2 – An accumulation of minor to moderate stress factors. Nothing major but too many things happening at once. Tension in the relationship with your spouse, long hours at work, having many exams coming up.
This is represented in our bath analogy as having many faucets turned on moderately. No one cause sticks out more than the another one, but together they add too much water to your bathtub
3 – Not being able to drain your bathtub. Even if only one faucet is dripping, over time your bath is going to overflow if you can’t drain it properly because of clog. Think of someone who can’t quit being in his head, whose “mental hamster” is always spinning in his wheel
The worse part? It may be one or two or even all three of those situations and cause you to have harmful effects from stress, such as lowering HCl production, chronic low levels of inflammation, bad sleep and insulin sensitivity that is dwindling down at every bite.
This was a short capsule to help you guys understand how even someone who has little big stressors in his life (option # 1) can end up with side effects from stress.
Manage your stress well in all the areas of your life and you’ll reap the benefits. As I say often in class: you induce stress from your mouth and you bring it in through your mouth. In other words, you stress people out with what you say (and how you say it) and you worsen it by jacking your insulin and consuming inflammatory foods
Hope this article puts things in focus for you,
Coach Charles R. Poliquin