It's amazing how much verbage is devoted to the topic of stress these days.
Studies on stress, workshops on stress management, and lets not forget all those statistics. You know- "48% of all injuries in the workplace are stress related", and so forth . . .
But here's what gets me: Nobody ever really defines it. I read an article recently concerning stress, with a sub-title which read "What exactly is stress?", and then went on sharing more statistics and listing the effects of and yada yada yada . . .
The author never did define stress, let alone exactly.
Q: So why does it matter that we define stress?
A: Because in order to solve a problem, you have to understand what the problem is, and not just what it does . . . ,
I believe that without a clear definition of stress, trying to battle it, manage it, treat it, and lower it are merely a waste of time. More like shadow boxing really.
So- having given this topic a lot of thought, here's what I've come up with . . .
I want you to think about 'stress' simply as 'workload'. Plain and simple. Stress is merely the amount of 'load' placed upon a 'system'. Any system. For instance, structures are designed to bear a certain amount of weight. Like bridges. Take a 2 ton truck over a bridge designed to handle 1 ton of weight, and I hope your truck is delivering canoes or life rafts, because you'll more than likely need them. Why? Because the bridge was rated at 1 ton stress. and you placed two tons of stress upon it. Ker-splash!
Since 'Stress' = workload...
...then the amount of stress (i.e. burden, effort) placed upon a system is referred to as 'stress levels'.
An important thing to realize is that 'stress' is neither good nor bad, in and of itself. What matters is:
1) how much of it there is
b) the condition of the system bearing the burden
Lets go back to the bridge. . .
2 Ton Truck + 1 Ton Bridge = Kersplash
1/2 Ton Truck + 1 Ton Bridge = Coffee and doughnuts in the little cafe' on the other side of the bridge where all the other trucks park except the ones that were too heavy, but you get the idea ...
That type of stress is called Mechanical Stress. Stress levels that are below the Stress Threshold (i.e. the limit of what a system can bear) are referred to as safe stress levels. And those which exceed a stress threshold are considered, um . . . well . . . not so safe stress levels . . .
So in the world of mechanics, Stress = workload, and its either safe or unsafe.
But- we're not mechanical. We're bio-mechanical. And that makes a huge difference.
Because living systems respond to a work-load differently. In short, living systems (like plants and animals and humans) have the ability to adapt, whereas bridges and beams and fishing line do not.
So even though 'stress equals work-load', the effect of that work-load is no longer just safe or unsafe. Stress on a living organism now becomes healthy or unhealthy.
Healthy Stress is used to strengthen and build up. There are many names for this. In sports, its called endurance. In music its called proficiency. Its why we study for exams, or at least were supposed to . . .
By placing a challenge before ourselves in order to develop the skill necessary to perform a task with greater ease, or to further develop a talent, we are using healthy stress to do it. Its the 15lb. weight that works and develops a bigger muscle. Its the crossword puzzle that strengthens the brain. You get the idea . . .
Well then, that being the case, unhealthy stress obviously does the opposite. It not only overloads a system, causing damage, but, since the system is organic, and will adapt to the burden, and develop all sorts of compensatory habits that, overtime, will become permanent fixtures in how that organism functions. A good example of this is kyphosis, where 'head forward' posture, overtime, develops into a full hunch-back.
Therefore- Just as healthy stress trains a living structure, so, too, does unhealthy stress...,
So- there you have it! I could say more, and in fact, probably will. But not in this post. This being my first blog, I thought I'd save the interesting stuff for later. Like how does 'centering', 'grounding' and 'alignment' (key elements in posture) effect our ability to bear stress? And how can I convert unhealthy stress to healthy stress? Stuff like that.
So thanks for making it this far. Please comment on this, with all sorts of questions, opinions, and ruthless criticisms . . . really. I don't mind. In fact, I really look forward to hearing what you have to say!
So until next time, remember . . .
"You are very carefully and wonderfully made!"