16/365Challenge:  Stress is what I’ve been trying to avoid.  And today, I came across something that says going through stress has benefits, too.  So how can stress be good?  

I have not written much about health in this space, although it’s actually one of the four major categories that I love to write (or talk) about.  The other three are education, livelihood, and parenting.

I was editing a book earlier, and I came across this word… hormesis.

According to Google, hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses. (gettingstronger.org)

In other words, hormesis is a term used to describe favorable biological responses to low exposures to stressors by exposing yourself to discomfort.

So we complain about traffic.  We complain about the heat.  We complain that we have so many things going on at our respective workstations that we have breakfast for dinner.

Well, guess what?  Experiencing these discomforts, which lead to stress for some, if not most, of us, is actually good!  They make us stronger.

Think how long our ancestors have lived.  They did not have the luxury of cars, so they walked (or run) to get from point A to point B, which help build strong bones, strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, and burn plenty of kilojoules.  They did not have the luxury of electric fans or air condition.  So they sweat it out, which purges the body of toxins that can clog pores and plague the skin with pimples and blemishes.  They did not have refrigerators to store food, so they would sometimes go hungry, until the next successful hunt or harvest.  And yet, they lived healthy and strong.

In more layman’s terms, hormesis is like what they do in allergen immunotherapy, where they introduce very low doses of an allergen, then gradually increase the dosage to build up tolerance.

So, experiencing stress in small doses can be beneficial.  I know that when I’m stressing, I get to accomplish more, because my stress motivates me to focus on my work and my goals.  According to research, stress produces a fight-or-flight response.  This response is designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it.  Further research shows that short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory.

So there!  Next time you’re stressing, just think back to this post.  For as long as you don’t allow yourself to wallow in your stress, then you’ll be good.

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