The Beginning of the End of Stress as an ObstaclePosted: October 4, 2011
Stress is a regular companion for everyone. The amount of stress we incur varies over time, but nobody can avoid it altogether. Job or career concerns, family (especially children) and the commute to/from work headline the long list of sources of stress. If you’re reading this blog, you probably subject yourself to additional stress in the form of intense physical activity.
My exposure to stress has increased over the past few months, and I’m experiencing its negative effects. My eating habits, ability to recover from intense workouts and overall outlook have all been affected. Chronic stress has become a big obstacle that I must overcome to achieve my next breakthrough.
My first step in dealing with any obstacle is learning about it. Reading books like The Paleo Solution and The Thrive Diet gave me new insight into how stress affects the body and how debilitating stress can be. I never knew how much impact stress can have on all aspects of life.
Most of us have seen and applied the stress adaptation curve in our training. The basic idea is that with the right amount of stress and adaptation, the body becomes stronger. So we stress our bodies through running (or riding, or some other kind of workout), and then we recover. Our bodies get stronger, fitter and faster. Stress is our ally.
Beyond physical training, however, the stress adaptation curve is replaced by the “General Adaptation Syndrome.” Developed by Hans Selye, the General Adaptation Syndrome articulates three levels of response to stress: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion.
Based on the General Adaptation Syndrome, conventional wisdom prescribes stress management as a way of dealing with stress. Typical stress management techniques suggest avoiding stress or developing ways to cope with it. Conventional wisdom suggests mediation, yoga and similar methods for controlling your response to stress.
In my experience, activities such as meditation and yoga do provide temporary relief from stress. They are also effective for more than just stress relief.
But the stress always comes back.
Avoidance and coping mechanisms are only partial solutions.
And why is stress an ally in our physical training but something to be avoided or “coped with” in other aspects of our life?
Why can’t we leverage the “stress adaptation curve” to deal with every day stress? Can I train myself to absorb and adapt to everyday stress, just like I do when I’m running? If stress is impossible to avoid, why does conventional wisdom suggest doing just that? Is “managing” stress my only option?
Enter Hormesis. Hormesis is the biological principle behind the stress adaptation curve. It suggests that a beneficial effect can be derived from low exposure to something that would be detrimental with high exposure.
I recently stumbled upon an idea that I can use stress to make me stronger in all aspects of my life, not just running. It’s explored in this blog—Getting Stronger. The tag line, “Train Yourself to Thrive on Stress,” is exciting.
While this is only a start, I’m more excited than I’ve been in a while about my ability to break through my current malaise. I’ll be exploring the Getting Stronger blog thoroughly, trying some suggestions, and reporting the results here.