Does stress have a place in a Wellness protocol? How can you get stronger from stress?
You’ve probably heard that stress is bad for your health. Work stress, relationship stress, finanical stress… these are not the things you want to make a habit of signing up for in your life, because chronic, ongoing stressors can increase physical pain, lower your immunity and shorten your lifespan.
What is stress for?
I always look at Wellness through an ancestral, or evolutionary lens. If stress is not good in the long term, what is it for?
Humans did not recently discover stress – it’s always been around. For example, your wild ancestors had lots of stressors : when the next storm was coming, where the best berries will be, and how the ?*%^ do I get away from that tiger? We are designed to focus on demanding issues in the moment (eg. that tiger is right in front of me) and deal with them – in the moment.
We are not designed to spend many hours of every day dedicated to stress situations (eg. there’s a tiger, and there’s another one and there’s one over there too and there’s five coming out of that shopping centre!!) to the point that we can not focus on anything else. But modern daily life has us living as though there are tigers everywhere.
Making stress work for you
If you’ve managed to clean-up your Big Stress and lil stress, you might be ready to start developing your stress relationship even further. Stress can be used to strengthen your body and mind, when used appropriately.
Hormesis : Getting Stronger from Stress
Humans might not be designed for long term stress, but we are designed to use physical stress in to strengthen and grow our capacities. You’re probably already familiar with some of these : dietary antioxidants, using a hot sauna, a cold plunge, or a high intensity workout.
Hormetic stress is useful to your body, to help learn how to regulate and adapt to new situations, which in turn helps to make you and your immune system stronger, and more resilient to the everyday changes of life.
The difference between an helpful, hormetic stress, and other chronic stress is that you will bounce back from the hormetic stress better than before. Hormesis refers to growth through responding to a low or intermittent dose of a stressor that could be dangerous or deadly at a higher level. Swimming in the Mongarlowe River at the end of July when you’re not used to the cold, could kill you, but a little time in a cold bath, can improve your immune function.
Strength training is another example: getting sore in the gym causes damage to your muscles, increasing oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. At the same time, your training stimulates growth hormone and testosterone, which encourage your body to heal the tiny injuries by building new muscle fibers in the repaired tissue.
A Proper Environment for Stress Recovery
Your body can not recover without the appropriate environment, which includes good nutrition and sleep. An environment that encourages further stress when you’ve already had stress, is not conducive to strength and resilience.
Your body requires a balance between the right dosage of stress, and up regulating and down regulation in order to recover from hormetic stress and become stronger than before. Exercise can be hormetic, as long as you recover in between. Overtraining will cause more stress and make you unwell in the end. Being cold all of the time can transform a helpful cold bath into a dangerous chronic stress.
Chronic stress wears you down, and overwhelming stress can kill you, but intermittent and relatively low doses of stress followed by enough recovery time can actually make you stronger. The key here is to Challenge Yourself… whether it’s in a workout, eating antioxidant foods, getting cold, or doing something that scares you.
Making space for recovery
If you’re a hard hitter, always going from one thing to the next at 120km p/h, you need more time to recover than someone who cruises through life at 40.
#6. outside in the morning : show your body when it needs to use it’s cortisol the most, by getting outside in the morning and sending the message to your hormones that it’s the time of day designed for humans to switch on and get stuff done.
#10. eat food that sings : eat fresh food, nutrition dense that your body loves.
#11. shake and roll : releasing your myofascia invites your body to downregulate, let go of pain and recover any physical stress.
#13. sleep like your ancestors : an extra hour or two of sleep during the dark hours provides the perfect environment for cell recovery
#32. give gratitude : expand your heart and give thanks for your blessings. Research has shown that people who give thanks live longer and are less stressed in everyday life,
Strength take away
Stress is an everyday part of life, but how you deal with the stress in your life affects your Wellness overall. Managing your reactions to stress, reflecting on your relationship with stress and making space for recovery is a perfect combination for increased quality of life.
Do it well, and stress could become a friend in stead of a foe.
If you’d like more clarity on working with stress, join the Wellness Therapy Program, or phone 0482 955 340. If you’re not sure whether you’re response to stress is appropriate, have a 10 minute chat with me for free, and we can find out if it’s worth joining the Program.
Mrs Hollie Bakerboljkovac PACFA Reg. Clinical 25488
The article Get stronger from stress was published by Hollie Bakerboljkovac, for the Institute for Self Crafting.
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