Wait! That can’t be right. Haven’t we been told that stress is the silent killer? It’s linked to just about every disease process, it compromises our immune system making us more prone to infection and illness, and sends our hormonal system completely out of whack (with consequences such as weight gain, insomnia and diminished sexual function).
Most of us are pretty smart and have an in-built intelligence system that operates as an instinctual survival mechanism. We have the ability to procreate for survival of our species, think rationally for conflict resolution and move freely to avoid potential life threatening dangers – perhaps being chased by a wild beast several thousand years ago; whereas now “chronic sitting” and sedentary lifestyles are a legitimate threat to our survival as a species (evidenced by the fact that sitting is now recognised as an independent risk factor for developing chronic lifestyle diseases).
Fact… we would not be here today if it weren’t for stress. As a species, humans can be regarded as the “best of the rest” when it comes to adapting, surviving and thriving. The daily stresses that we are subjected to actually help us to evolve and ensure our ongoing survival within our chosen environment. However, we’ve successfully managed to test these boundaries to the point where we’re experiencing a negative trend in our evolution – i.e. we’re on a path towards extinction!
Think about it… with fertility rates on the decline and lifestyle diseases on the rise, we’re finding it harder to procreate on one end of the spectrum and shortening our lifespans on the other. In other words, we’re burning the candle at both ends. Eventually those 2 flames will meet and burn out – i.e. extinction.
So, getting back to the topic on stress. We’re constantly finding ways to make our lives “easier” by reducing the amount of physical stress that is required to get from the start of your day to the end. Barely a step is required to go about your daily activities such as commuting, working, communicating, playing, eating and shopping. If you don’t use it, you lose it – without adequate/required amounts of stress (physical, emotional, nutritional, chemical, environmental) placed on your body, the associated parts/areas/organ systems will become useless. A great analogy here is kindly brought to you by Julius Wolff (1836 – 1902), a German anatomist and surgeon. He came up with the theory (Wolff’s Law)that states that “bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.” If you have ever broken a bone you may be able to relate to this. Let’s say you have a broken forearm that requires a cast for several weeks. During that time you are unable to use the muscles in your forearm. This means that there is less stimulation (and stress) to those muscles, and less load/force on the bones onto which the muscles connect. The nerves and blood vessels that supply the muscles and overlying fat and skin are also demanded of much less than before. When the cast is taken off, you notice that the size of your forearm has decreased (i.e. the muscle bulk has been reduced), the forearm feels brittle (the bone is weaker because of less load on it), the skin is pale (decreased nerve and blood supply) and the forearm has a numb feel to it (diminished nerve supply). This is the part of Wolff’s law that states that “if the loading on a bone decreases, the bone will become weaker due to turnover, it is less metabolically costly to maintain and there is no stimulus for continued remodeling that is required to maintain bone mass.” However, after several weeks of use, all/most of normal functioning, shape and form comes back to your forearm. This is the stress and adaptation response that has allowed us to evolve into the species that we are today.
So, how do you ensure that you continue with positive evolution? Let’s go back to the daily activities from the last paragraph…
- Commuting – ditch the car/train/bus/tram. Walk, ride, run, scooter, or skip to work, social outings, etc.
- Work – get a stand up work desk
- Communicating – make time to speak face to face with people. Schedule a walk meeting.
- Playing – you can also call it exercising or training. It needs to be fun, engaging and something that you will continue to do for the rest of your life.
- Eating – prepare your meals from scratch, using whole food ingredients. Make your grocery shopping a weekly experience – go to your local farmers market and get the whole family involved in the process.
- Shopping – Go offline. Walk to your local shopping centre or shopping strip, try stuff on – again, make it an experience.
I “get my stress on” with a daily workout to challenge my mobility, strength, power, flexibility, endurance and balance. Here’s one from a couple of days ago…
To end this blog, I’ll share this email below that I sent to a client last week who is on the path to negative evolution. Hopefully with the right mindset shift and support, he can get back on track to not only survive, but thrive in his environment.