The words stress is a hot topic right now. Stats show that 1 in 5 people describe feeling chronically stressed, while 64% of workplaces have reported an increase in workplace stress levels.
Humans have an incredible capacity to adapt in the face of challenge, and we have an innate ability to manage and even thrive in stressful conditions. However, there is a difference between being stressed, and being stressed out. While some stress can be exciting and challenging, beyond a certain threshold and duration, stress can lead to deterioration in physiological and psychological systems, and subsequently, many of the diseases we see in modern life.
The key concept here is chronic vs acute stress. Chronic stress is not good. In fact to put in bluntly, it will put you in an early grave. A key part of our Universal Wellbeing Philosophy is Downshifting. ...
Downshifting is how we make time to relieve chronic stress, not by going on holiday once per year or scrolling through through our social feeds late at night. But designated daily habits, rituals, practices that give our bodies, and our minds the chance to recover from chronic stressors.
Nearly 6,000 peer-reviewed research papers support meditation and mindfulness as powerful tools in stopping and even reversing the system-wide inflammatory effects of chronic stress. Moreover, regular practice can reduce depression and anxiety, elevate happiness, improve cognitive flexibility, and promote both longevity and brain health by dialling back the cellular clock on ageing.
But it’s another eye element of our Universal Wellbeing Philosophy that I want to tune into here…. Finding Your Purpose. What drives you, what helps you overcome tough situations, Proactive vs Reactive mindsets, what makes you get up with spring in your step each morning, what challenges you to be better. And most importantly what challenges you to live, just a little, at the edge of your comfort zone.
This is acute stress and we need it, in fact we should crave it. Just like we do sleep. Humans have a flight-or-fight response, which is an inborn physiological reaction that occurs when they’re under attack. Your body is wired to handle everyday, normal stressors, and when your natural defences kick in, your wellbeing improves.
There are some key benefits to acute stress. First off, it improves cognitive function - Unless you’re at an amusement park and about to experience the ride of your life, you might not enjoy that panicky feeling in the pit of your stomach. On the other hand, if this feeling occurs in response to moderate stress levels, the upside is that the pressure and nervousness you feel boost your brain’s performance. This is because moderate stress strengthens the connection between neurons in your brain, improving memory and attention span, and helping you become more productive.
It also helps you dodge some of those nasty winter bugs going around. The fight-or-flight response you feel when stressed is designed to protect you, whether it’s from injury or another perceived threat. What’s interesting about low doses of the stress hormone is that it also helps protect from infections. Moderate stress stimulates the production of a chemical called interleukins and gives the immune system a quick boost to protect against illnesses — unlike its evil twin, chronic stress, which lowers immunity and increases inflammation.
But for me the most important part - it builds resilience. Another key part of our Universal Wellbeing Philosophy we call “Embracing Challenges”.
There’s no denying how going through a tough situation builds resilience. When you experience something for the first time, you might think it’s the worst situation and crumble because you don’t know how to cope. But as you confront different situations and overcome various problems, you train yourself to deal with similar incidents in the future. Resilience is the one of the keys to success, across a multitude of disciplines. sport, work, challenging relationships. Resilience is a trait will should all come to admire.
How to you challenge yourself and maximise your acute stress response? That is up to you, but to get you started here are my top tips:
Go jump in the ocean. Yes, it's mid winter, and yes it's bloody cold. But you will feel like a millions bucks afterwards. Cold water therapy benefits are the real deal
Say Yes. Have a mindset to embrace the things you want to do
Take on a hobby
Live life to the fullest
Embrace your potential
Strengthen your mind and body with regular intense exercise
Find your closest mountain and climb it
Embrace your Health, Fitness and Wellbeing. Own it!
Go on, embrace the challenge!
Jimmy - ReDefined Founder