Article
Podcast Episode
December 6, 2023

The Cost of Stress

Key Takeaways:

  • Many things in life can cause us to feel stressed: personal and work relationships, home and family life, finances, the news, and even social isolation and loneliness. Even exercise is a stress, and while physical activity is excellent for our health, too much training and insufficient recovery can lead to overtraining or burnout. Remember, we only have a limited amount of adaptive capacity — only so much “fuel” in our gas tank, so to speak.
  • In 1988, Peter Sterling and Joseph Eyer introduced a term known as allostasis, which refers to the body's response to daily events to maintain homeostasis. Allostasis means achieving stability through change — something we all should wish to develop. We can't manage stress. Life happens, and stress is unavoidable. What we want is not to avoid stress but to increase our ability to adapt to it so that we can thrive in difficult circumstances. This is why we want allostasis.
  • Just because stress has a cost doesn’t mean we should seek to avoid it. The opposite is true - because stress is the gateway to growth. What's important is to build more capacity, a bigger gas tank, to turn stress into a catalyst for change. 
Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:
Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:
Cite this page:

Stress is a word we use daily to express when we are feeling a sense of anxiety or frustration — our security feels threatened, and we may feel pushed beyond our limits to cope. 

Many things in life can cause us to feel stressed: personal and work relationships, home and family life, finances, the news, and even social isolation and loneliness. Even exercise is a stress, and while physical activity is excellent for our health, too much training and insufficient recovery can lead to overtraining or burnout. Remember, we only have a limited amount of adaptive capacity — only so much “fuel” in our gas tank, so to speak.

No matter the type of stress, too much stress can lead us to feel anxious and depressed, to lose sleep, or to overindulge in food or alcohol. Everyone copes with stress differently.

Stress Begins in the Mind

All stress begins in the mind — our brain determines which experiences we perceive as stressful, and it determines our physiological and behavioral responses to stress. This means that our mind ultimately determines whether stress will be health-promoting or health-damaging.

As the "master organ," the brain can respond to short and long-term stress by directing other biological systems — the neuroendocrine, autonomic, immune, and cardiovascular systems, for example — into action.

The daily stresses we experience don't just affect the mind but have wide-ranging effects throughout the entire body. In this way, when not dealt with properly, stress can have short- and long-term health consequences.

In a previous post, we discussed the body’s stress response, also known as the “fight or flight” response. During this response, our adrenal glands release catecholamines (stress hormones) that increase our heart rate and blood pressure to enable our body to do something effortful, compelling us into action. In addition, cortisol is elevated, enhancing our body's ability to utilize resources to increase energy. Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye characterized this as the alarm phase in his general adaptation syndrome model (GAS). 

  

This acute stress response is good for helping us deal with whatever “threat” is present — a challenging problem at work or defensive drivers during rush-hour traffic, for example. But if this stress persists, we experience a chronic elevation of stress hormones, glucocorticoids, and cortisol. High levels of these hormones are associated with various health issues, including cardiovascular disease and chronic fatigue. 

Introducing Allostasis

In 1988, Peter Sterling and Joseph Eyer introduced a term known as allostasis, which refers to the body's response to daily events to maintain homeostasis. Allostasis means achieving stability through change — something we all should wish to develop.

Why do we want allostasis? We can't manage stress. Life happens, and stress is unavoidable. What we want is not to avoid stress but to increase our ability to adapt to it so that we can thrive in difficult circumstances.

It's important to note that allostasis can only be achieved through a healthy body and mind that can constantly adjust to physical and mental demands.

Our daily “allostatic load challenges allostasis” — the “wear and tear” that happens when we experience too much stress or inefficiently manage our adaptive capacity. 

The Cost of Adaptation

We can think about allostatic load in a straightforward way: as the cost of adaptation. Each time we experience a stressful life event or a string of very intense workouts, this comes at a price. Unfortunately, it’s common to ignore this cost until it finally becomes too much to handle, and the result isn’t pretty.

We can see an example of poor management of allostatic load by examining an example that most of us can relate to exercise. Exercise is indispensable for health, and most of us have great intentions when we head to the gym or hop on the Peloton for our daily workout. Working hard each day is how we get better and improve our global fitness, body composition, and strength. But even the most well-designed exercise programs often fail to consider the influence of other stresses — work, life, and the challenge of being a human. The cumulative stressors can lead to burnout, injury, and results that fall below our expectations.

Everyone has to pay the cost of stress — whether you choose to pay it now or later. In the example above, you might have an incredible streak of not missing a workout for months on top of working hard, 9–5, every single day. But, eventually, the compounding stress will catch up with you, and one (or both) of your sources of purpose in life might suffer as a result.

Just because stress has a cost doesn’t mean we should seek to avoid it. The opposite is true - because stress is the gateway to growth. What's important is to build more capacity, a bigger gas tank, to turn stress into a catalyst for change. 

Soon we'll reveal the 5 pillars for building adaptive capacity and the simple tools and tactics you can use to build a bigger tank.

Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data:
Cite this page:

Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:
Key TAKEAWAYS
  • Many things in life can cause us to feel stressed: personal and work relationships, home and family life, finances, the news, and even social isolation and loneliness. Even exercise is a stress, and while physical activity is excellent for our health, too much training and insufficient recovery can lead to overtraining or burnout. Remember, we only have a limited amount of adaptive capacity — only so much “fuel” in our gas tank, so to speak.
  • In 1988, Peter Sterling and Joseph Eyer introduced a term known as allostasis, which refers to the body's response to daily events to maintain homeostasis. Allostasis means achieving stability through change — something we all should wish to develop. We can't manage stress. Life happens, and stress is unavoidable. What we want is not to avoid stress but to increase our ability to adapt to it so that we can thrive in difficult circumstances. This is why we want allostasis.
  • Just because stress has a cost doesn’t mean we should seek to avoid it. The opposite is true - because stress is the gateway to growth. What's important is to build more capacity, a bigger gas tank, to turn stress into a catalyst for change. 
Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:

Stress is a word we use daily to express when we are feeling a sense of anxiety or frustration — our security feels threatened, and we may feel pushed beyond our limits to cope. 

Many things in life can cause us to feel stressed: personal and work relationships, home and family life, finances, the news, and even social isolation and loneliness. Even exercise is a stress, and while physical activity is excellent for our health, too much training and insufficient recovery can lead to overtraining or burnout. Remember, we only have a limited amount of adaptive capacity — only so much “fuel” in our gas tank, so to speak.

No matter the type of stress, too much stress can lead us to feel anxious and depressed, to lose sleep, or to overindulge in food or alcohol. Everyone copes with stress differently.

Stress Begins in the Mind

All stress begins in the mind — our brain determines which experiences we perceive as stressful, and it determines our physiological and behavioral responses to stress. This means that our mind ultimately determines whether stress will be health-promoting or health-damaging.

As the "master organ," the brain can respond to short and long-term stress by directing other biological systems — the neuroendocrine, autonomic, immune, and cardiovascular systems, for example — into action.

The daily stresses we experience don't just affect the mind but have wide-ranging effects throughout the entire body. In this way, when not dealt with properly, stress can have short- and long-term health consequences.

In a previous post, we discussed the body’s stress response, also known as the “fight or flight” response. During this response, our adrenal glands release catecholamines (stress hormones) that increase our heart rate and blood pressure to enable our body to do something effortful, compelling us into action. In addition, cortisol is elevated, enhancing our body's ability to utilize resources to increase energy. Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye characterized this as the alarm phase in his general adaptation syndrome model (GAS). 

  

This acute stress response is good for helping us deal with whatever “threat” is present — a challenging problem at work or defensive drivers during rush-hour traffic, for example. But if this stress persists, we experience a chronic elevation of stress hormones, glucocorticoids, and cortisol. High levels of these hormones are associated with various health issues, including cardiovascular disease and chronic fatigue. 

Introducing Allostasis

In 1988, Peter Sterling and Joseph Eyer introduced a term known as allostasis, which refers to the body's response to daily events to maintain homeostasis. Allostasis means achieving stability through change — something we all should wish to develop.

Why do we want allostasis? We can't manage stress. Life happens, and stress is unavoidable. What we want is not to avoid stress but to increase our ability to adapt to it so that we can thrive in difficult circumstances.

It's important to note that allostasis can only be achieved through a healthy body and mind that can constantly adjust to physical and mental demands.

Our daily “allostatic load challenges allostasis” — the “wear and tear” that happens when we experience too much stress or inefficiently manage our adaptive capacity. 

The Cost of Adaptation

We can think about allostatic load in a straightforward way: as the cost of adaptation. Each time we experience a stressful life event or a string of very intense workouts, this comes at a price. Unfortunately, it’s common to ignore this cost until it finally becomes too much to handle, and the result isn’t pretty.

We can see an example of poor management of allostatic load by examining an example that most of us can relate to exercise. Exercise is indispensable for health, and most of us have great intentions when we head to the gym or hop on the Peloton for our daily workout. Working hard each day is how we get better and improve our global fitness, body composition, and strength. But even the most well-designed exercise programs often fail to consider the influence of other stresses — work, life, and the challenge of being a human. The cumulative stressors can lead to burnout, injury, and results that fall below our expectations.

Everyone has to pay the cost of stress — whether you choose to pay it now or later. In the example above, you might have an incredible streak of not missing a workout for months on top of working hard, 9–5, every single day. But, eventually, the compounding stress will catch up with you, and one (or both) of your sources of purpose in life might suffer as a result.

Just because stress has a cost doesn’t mean we should seek to avoid it. The opposite is true - because stress is the gateway to growth. What's important is to build more capacity, a bigger gas tank, to turn stress into a catalyst for change. 

Soon we'll reveal the 5 pillars for building adaptive capacity and the simple tools and tactics you can use to build a bigger tank.

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