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A Look at Stress

Written by Liz Anderson-Peacock, D.C.   
Friday, 01 September 2006 00:00
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Dr. Hans Selye believed that stress is necessary for adaptation. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or the smartest of the species that survive, but the one most able to adapt to change.” Stress is a requirement for adaptation. Many times we think of stress as a negative or an overtaxing drain mentally, physically, or emotionally. Negatively interpreted stress has been shown to initiate and contribute to many disease processes and can aggravate current diseases.

How two people perceive an event or situation may dictate vastly different responses by the body if one interprets stress negatively and the other positively.

Selye’s research showed that stress has two opposing counters: “dis-stress,” which is a negative interpretation, and “eu-stress,” which is the positive. Simplified, one is processed as bad stress the other as good stress. The body needs both.

A Look at StressTo interpret our world, we use our senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing, and joint and body perception. To interpret an experience, we require a variation or gradient—opposing information. To see light, we need to understand dark. To understand hot, we need to have the experience of cold. To experience hunger, we need to know satiety.

Likewise, to build and have a strong muscle, we must load, or “stress,” it. By loading the muscle, we cause its elements to break down and reorganize into stronger and larger components. The muscle doesn’t become strong at the time of stressing, but once repaired, its strength has increased.

Even our blood vessels are under stress, as the pumping of blood through arteries meets the resistance of the vessel wall. Our lungs inflate and deflate against a resistance of the tissues.

Can there be life without stress? Our simple answer is “no.” Being alive requires a balance of stressors in the body. This balance is called homeostasis. Our body is in a constant state of creation and destruction, with formation of new cells and removal dead cells. We need stress to live. How we interpret our life within our body and our environment is important. Have you noticed that stress may lead to one person’s demise while another may thrive? Is this attributed to training, preparation, and interpretation by the individual? Or, is it haphazard?