Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 1: Day 6

A previous challenge considered the evolutionary basis for barefoot connection with the earth.  Today, I’m going to talk to you about another evolved and highly adaptive trait humans have for dealing with threats and dangers in the natural world, but is highly unadaptive to modern living.

It’s stress.

Stress ( by Jean Pierre Gallot)

I’m going to distinguish between distress and eustress.  Distress is what we experience when physiological responses to perceived stressors in the environment become chronic and there are no remission periods, times when we can relax and rejuvenate.  This kind of stress is a typical of modern living and is a rampant killer, causing obesity, sleep deprivation, cancer, heart disease, memory loss – the list goes on.

I could go into a lengthy description of the body’s responses to chronic stress, but Robert Sapolsky explains it so much better and in a far more entertaining way than I can.  I first discovered Robert Sapolsky when I bought a book just for its title than for any other reason: “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”.  I became a fan, and who could resist “The Trouble with Testosterone”?

This is a long video, but it’s well worth the watch.  It’ll make you think twice about encouraging too much distress in your life.

Eustress on the other hand, is the experience of acute stress, such as you might experience when danger is imminent – say a near accident in your car.  Your body is immediately flooded with chemicals which prepare you for a fight-flight response.  Get out of the situation as fast as you can or stay and fight it until the stressor passes.  The stress passes, you collapse in a chair and immediately your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and your return to a state of equilibrium.  This kind of stress actually helps to boost the body’s repair systems and strengthens your immune system.   Our systems evolved to deal with acute stress, but not to deal with chronic.

The pressure of deadlines, traffic jams, bosses, work relationships, mortgage worries, debt… we’re not equipped to deal with this, so we look for alternative means.  Exercise is the body’s natural response for ridding itself of toxic stress hormones.  Relaxation techniques encourage the parasympathetic response.  However, other responses are less adapative – drinking, smoking, comfort eating, taking it out on those you love…..

To encourage eustress rather than distress, we need to condition a cycle of going out of our comfort zones, trigger that fight-flight response followed by a relaxation response.  The body and mind (they are interlinked) need that switch off mechanism to be more automated and habitual than the experience of constant stress.

Today’s challenge is to purposely do something which takes you out of your comfort zone, followed by a favoured relaxation technique: a meditation, bath, being with nature…. See if you can get some eustress into your life!

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14 thoughts on “Eco-Warrior Challenge No. 1: Day 6

  1. Drollery and I just watched the video. I was fascinated by how the troupe of baboons changed when the alpha males died. My Lord! Can you imagine how we could transform the world knowing that!!! The other thing that caught my attention big time was the info about fetuses. I had a very scary thing happen to me when I was 8 months pregnant with Brandon. I thought I was going to die or worse, be tortured. I always wondered afterward if there was any way that adrenaline could have affected him. He is 38, prone to anxiety attacks, weight gain, has had a couple psychotic breaks… You get the picture. Now I’m wondering if that episode set him up for that. What an interesting, interesting video… So glad we watched it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so great you enjoyed it too. I was fascinated by the baboon research too. It’s a good insight into what’s nature and nurture. I know there’s a link between prenatal influences and psychosis – e.g. viral infection, and of course with stress also. It’s definitely possible. The brain is very malleable then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll have to listen to the video tonight. (I’m catching up!) But I liked this comment: Our systems evolved to deal with acute stress, but not to deal with chronic. I honestly hadn’t thought about the difference between acute and chronic till I read that. I thought I may have misused eustress in the past, but nope. I’m good!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now you’re talking! Maybe I’ll jump from my second-floor window onto the flat roof 20 ft away 🙂
    This is an interesting post. To my shame, I’ve never placed acute and chronic stress side by side, and compared them, even though I know about them both separately.

    Liked by 1 person

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