If you look through the top diseases that kill us in America, you will find one risk factor that most of them share. You guessed it, stress. I thought we might want to take a closer look at stress to get a handle on this risk factor that all of us have.
A very basic definition of stress is: Any change to homeostasis. Homeostasis is our body’s ability to stay in equilibrium amidst a dynamic and complex set of conditions. Stress is something that pulls us out of that equilibrium, a.k.a. our happy place. When we get pushed out of our happy place, we need to spend resources and energy to pull ourselves back. The greater the stress, the greater the cost in resources needed to pull us back. The expense of maintaining our equilibrium builds up over time. Large amounts of stress over large amounts of time deplete us in significant ways.
Caution: If we define stress as any change to our equilibrium, we need to remove any prejudice from our use of the word. Some stresses are very bad for us. Some stresses are good for us. That’s the whole point of going to the gym, to stress our muscles into growing bigger. A wise person learns how to tell the difference between good and bad stress and how to use stress to grow in positive directions.
Remember: EVERY change to our homeostasis can be called stress. Stress forces us to adapt, react, mobilize, or pull against its push. It forces us to spend energy to get back to our happy place.
Experiment: This is a great 18 hour experiment you can undertake any Saturday night. Get a bunch of friends together. Eat lots. Drink Lots. Play late. Sleep little. When you wake up the next morning, witness the state of your body; pushed out of equilibrium by a variety of stressors. Take notes all day as your body pulls you back into equilibrium. Watch as it processes all the excess food and beverage chemicals in your body. You can feel the bloating and lethargy pass over time. As time passes you also gather energy and recover from little sleep and wild partying. Eventually you can take off the sunglasses and feel decent when moving about the house. After many hours you can function like a normal person again.
This is an experiment in stress and homeostasis. Enjoy.