We human beings are odd in comparison with most animals, where a zebra might be concerned with getting eaten by a lion every once in a while, we are concerned about the mortgage on our house or the future of our marriage. The main difference between the rest of the animals and us in terms of stress is Acute Vs Chronic.
Our body is designed to deal with acute stress; fighting off wild animals, picking up heavy rocks to build a house, or getting in combat with a neighbouring village. These are all acute and in some sense healthy if we have time to recover.
Now think about our current situation; you read the news and hear about the collapsing economy, you read an Instagram post that pisses you off or you get stuck in traffic for an hour. These are all more chronic of nature and mostly unhealthy.
What does healthy mean exactly?
To me health is the ability to take a hit, whether it is being able to function on less sleep or not getting as sick after getting infected with a virus. Your body and mind function well and thus can handle more stress.
You might wonder what healthy means in connection with stress, well the answer is simple; your body can adapt to the stressor and get stronger in the process. You can withstand greater temperature changes, less sustenance or less oxygen in the bloodstream.
But, don't forget, it is not about how stressful an activity is - it is about how well you can handle it
How stress can accumulate
Your ability to deal with and overcome stress has to do with many factors, and all of these have to be considered for you to make the 'right' decision when it comes to exposing yourself to a healthy dose of stress.
- Caffeine consumption
- Professional insecurity
- Food intolerance
- Social media
How can you overcome chronic stress?
Let's start with the worst thing you can do; staying away from stress, seeking constant comfort. Your body needs stress to stay healthy. Instead seek out acute stress in many forms.
One day you might stress your body out by getting a cold shower, the next day you sweat in the sauna and maybe the next day you do a few sprints. Make sure you stress your body out in different ways so you don't overburden systems within the body.
What sources of stress can I utilize
Before I get into the details let's talk for a moment about the favourable response of the body to the stressor. Your body has several systems that each have their own function and can be trained, think of the cardiovascular system (your heart), your respiratory system (breathing), your immune system, you digestive system etc. All of these systems can be challenged and improved upon
Ways to stress out a system
- Cold exposure
- Breath holds
- Plant compounds
- Carrying heavy weights
- Getting choked during Jiu-Jitsu
- Giving a presentation
- Driving a car for the first time
None of these methods are healthy in and of itself, it is all about your tolerance to stress and the dosage
How can you track your tolerance to stress
I keep track of my tolerance to new stressors through a couple of parameters, and they are all feeling-based. I personally stay away from tracking devices and rather rely on the signaling of my body.
How I keep track;
- My libido; how sexually active am I
- My sleep; how well rested do I feel upon waking up and how easily do I fall asleeo
- My diet; do I have many sugar cravings and do I experience blood sugar fluctuations?
- My mental state; do I feel lethargic or am I anxious?
- My body; are my muscles tight and my joints achy?