I spoke a little bit about looking at the function of our body as a machine and survival as a key operational feature. Survival speaks of the ability to live/ exist in the environment, despite the conditions presented. In order for survival to happen, we have a natural internal monitor that reacts to the ever-changing external environment. Changing our bodily processes to fit the environment be it our home, work, relationship, city or the morning bumper to bumper traffic. The variation between pleasurable or stressful experiences creates a potential for surprises, in which case our brain is forced to anticipate the future uncertainties. Preparation is key for survival, however, when our environment presents with constant threats from leadership at work, social relationships, finances etc. Our bodies become overloaded and as a result diseased. Like any machine, it breaks down after overuse.
The preparation for the surprises our environment may place on us can be just as stressful as an actual event. Stress is a natural necessary response to immediate dangers. The fight or flight response needed when confronted with a lion who has determined you as its prey. Once we have arrived in a place of safety, the fight/ flight response is changed to the rest and digest response, the more relaxed healing state. The unfortunate thing is the stress response which is more than just the fight/flight response is recognized as potential stressors. With the current stressors becoming more mental and emotional, there is an increase in the unpredictable stress. Which is where chronic stress becomes a problem. Our bodies will adapt to its own detriment, it would be amazing if we would default to changing our external environment to suit an internal balance/ stability. This is not the case and with the adaption to the repeated exposure to stress, our bodies suffer wear and tear.
Wear and tear because certain systems are forced to overwork to be ever ready for a potential lion attack. These systems much like an engine will function, overheat and eventually cease. In other words, our heart, hormonal organs, hormones in the bloodstream and emotions are persistently activated working overtime. The effect leads to heart diseases, depressive mood disorders among other disorders. This is known as the “stressed OUT” stage.
The scary thing is that the chronic stress affects not only the function of our body but also our structure reducing our ability to cope with stressful events in the future and leading us into a more allostatic state, a vicious cycle. The repercussions then include anxiety, depression, heart disease, obesity, decreased immune function, muscular pain and high blood pressure. Doesn’t this sound like a lot of the diseases we are so accustomed to dealing with? A somewhat disease of civilization.
I will be looking at the stages of stress next and its effect on our machine and then look at whether we can alter our adaptation. Let me know your thoughts, let’s have a conversation about this.