Christmas is is over. School is almost back on. Work schedules will tighten up again. Yes, being busy, overwhelmed and tired has been glamorized! Somehow people learned to get their sense of worth based on what they do, how much they do and how tired they are as a result of their “doing”.
During conversations it´s not rare to hear people “complaining” about how stressed they are. However the complaint quickly turns into a competition for who is juggling more while attaching a sense of pride to it. Typically the winner is the “superhuman” the person who is juggling the most with the least time to eat, sleep and take care of other basic “human” needs.
It is not surprising that often times these conversations take place over a cup of coffee, soda, an energy drink or while consuming any other stimulating-caffeinated drink that will give their “tired bodies” the energy boost they need to keep driving themselves into the ground while ignoring their body´s cries for help!
Although these people complain about the tip of the iceberg: the sources of stress they are aware of: financial pressure, traffic, relationship issues, work deadlines, social commitments, etc. many are oblivious to the fact that there are many other sources of stress that are COMPOUNDING silently in the background taking a huge toll on their overall health and aesthetic appearance.
It turns out that on a day to day basis, we´re not only exposed to the mental-emotional stressors like those people typically complain/brag of, we´re also under tremendous amounts of physical, nutritional, chemical, electromagnetic, and other forms of stress as shown in Table 1.
If you live in a modern city, it´s very likely that MOST of these stressors are part of your daily reality!
Although some forms of stress are not as severe as others, the problem lies in that stress summates and the more stress we compound (total stress load) the more our health and aesthetic appearance become compromised.
Trust me living under stress overload, chronically is nothing to brag about unless you aspire to be a “poster child” for premature aging, obesity, fatigue, insomnia, depression and degenerative disease (cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, IBS, infertility, hormonal and digestive disorders, take your pick).
You see when you´re being challenged physically, mentally/emotionally or spiritually by a stressor your body activates the ancient “fight or flight” system to prepare you to run or fight for your life.
There´s clearly a mismatch between the stressors of your modern city life and those in the savannah, however your physiology responds to modern stressors as if you were in the wild, that is by preparing you to run or fight for your life.
Although you´d probably fantasize with running miles away from your debt or getting into a fist fight with your shady business partner, it´s very unlikely that you act out on those “primal impulses” when you feel “stressed out” by situations like those.
Although you may be able to override your primal desire to fight, what you can´t control is the fact that when you perceive a stressful experience your body is wired up to interpret it as a threat to your survival. Right away there´s a hormonal response that triggers a cascade of physiological responses that prepare you to run or fight for your life.
Ideally your body should spend most of the time in a regenerative state (anabolic) that allows us to thrive this is the normal state of a “healthy human” being.
However, when we get exposed to short term stress and the “fight or flight” system activates temporarily our bodies become almost “superhuman”.
When we have stress overload and we activate the “fight or flight” system chronically our bodies start to degenerate (catabolic) and we go from “superhuman” to “ticking time bomb”. If we constantly activate the system that evolved to help us survive “life or death” situations in the wild, this system turns on us and it becomes a silent killer that lives with us 24/7. Below you will find a table that will help you understand what your body experiences in the stages of “healthy human” “superhuman” and “ticking time bomb”.
Tapping into our “superhuman” powers through the “flight or flight” response temporarily and even more so chronically, comes at a great expense to our bodies as it creates A LOT of damage and it depletes our energy, vitamin, mineral, antioxidant reserves (to name a few). It fascinates me to see that although most modern health complaints are directly related to an chronic activation of the “fight or flight” system the “ticking time bombs” are being prescribed drugs and herbs to mask the symptoms or expressions of chronic compounded stress.
I don’t know about you but what makes sense to me is to:
- Educate people about what stress is
- Help them identify the stressors in their life
- Teach them how to calculate their total stress load and help them understand how it´s impacting their health.
- Help them differentiate between the forms of stress that they can control (improving food habits, getting to bed on time, etc.) and which can be beyond their overall control (smog, etc.).
- Create a safe space for them to explore the aspects of their life that are not making them happy and walk them through a process where they can connect with what makes them happy so they can build a life that´s is congruent with their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.
- Design personalized nutrient dense food and nourishing lifestyle program based around recovery so they can go from “ticking time bomb” to “healthy human”. Good quality food and rest are key!
- Empower them to take responsibility for their life and their health so they can address their “stress induced” health challenges from the root rather than playing “patch the symptom”.
I am so grateful to Paul Chek, for giving me the foundation that has helped me understand the stress response from a holistic perspective. His teachings as well as those from many others have allowed me to transform my body, my life and build a beautiful Health Consulting practice focused on empowering people to go from “surviving ticking time bombs” to “thriving human beings”.
May we all thrive together!