Meet your new ally: Stress.
But, before explaining why you need it, let’s take a step back to understand what the real enemy is.
Homeostasis is the tendency of an organism towards a relatively stable balance between interdependent elements,
Homeostasis is a property of living organisms that consists of their ability to maintain a stable internal condition, an internal state of balance, between interdependent elements.
Imagine trying to keep your balance in the middle of a Seesaw while juggling. To achieve this, you have to take into account your weight, the position of your body in relation to the table on which you are standing, and also continuously accurately calculate the movements of your entire body to avoid that the objects you throw in the air do not fall.
This scene is a simplification of what your body, mine, animals, plants, cells and in general every living being on the planet does second by second to find an internal state of balance.
Common examples of the homeostatic process are temperature regulation (we sweat when the heat rises, or our veins constrict when it falls) and the pH balance in the blood (not too acidic, not too alkaline).
Simply put, Homeostasis is a Metabolic Comfort Zone. And, this comfort zone also extends mentally and emotionally as humans continually try to avoid situations that cause us discomfort.
Hey! It is part of our nature to try to avoid pain and seek pleasure.
Types of Stress
Leaving aside the pleasant part, let’s focus on the discomfort, on the pain.
You’re unlikely to enjoy experiencing physical, mental, or emotional pain (unless you’re a 50 Shades of Gray Fan), and for this reason, the very thought of being forced to leave your delightful couch, where you’re curled up and comfortable with a blanket taking a nap or watching a movie, it causes an immediate rejection reaction.
That reaction is called stress and it arises when mental, emotional, physical or environmental pressure pushes us off the figurative sofa.
But not all stress is negative, as current medicine and marketing try to make it appear.
For this, let’s clarify the difference that the Neuro-endocrinologist Hans Selye made in 1975. Selye defines two different types of stress:
This is the type of negative stress that results in counterproductive effects to the functioning of the organism that experiences it.
Unpleasant situations at work or in personal relationships, illnesses, traumatic situations of abuse, the obsession to excel in our work, and many other Stress Agents are some examples of external and internal pressures to which we are continuously exposed.
Distress leads to insomnia, weight problems, hair loss, erratic behaviors, and a host of results that degrade the quality of daily living, to name just a few.
So what we commonly call “stress” is in fact “distress.”
On the other side of the fray, we have a completely different type of stress: eustress.
Eustress is defined as a positive stress since it’s an adaptive stress, that is, it allows the organism to adapt to improve its functioning.
More than the effect that eustress causes in the organism, its definition has to do with our perception and response that we have towards the Stress Agent.
Imagine these situations: performing physical exercise becomes eustress when our physical condition improves, moving to a different continent and culture to study something that we are passionate about produces personal growth, making financial investments with a certain degree of risk but whose probability of success eclipses a result negative, generates positive eustress.
But here’s the trick: after experiencing eustress, it is necessary to have some time to adapt to the new normality, or failing that, this stress will turn into distress and will damage the body or even kill it.
Why do you need Stress?
So who is the real enemy? Is stress as bad as advertising makes it out to be?
In fact, I dare to say that the enemy is not Stress itself, but rather the Homeostasis that stagnates our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth, but not just any Homeostasis, but rather the one that transforms into a Comfort Zone that numbs our curiosity and the innate desire for progress that each person has.
Since neither extreme is good and we tend to continually seek homeostasis in any aspect, it is a kind of useful contradiction to say that the optimal strategy for growth is based on using positive stress (eustress) to throw us out of balance (Current Homeostasis) in favor of to find a new balance at a higher level (New Homeostasis). And again.
In short, Homeostasis combined with Eustress is a strategy for Continuous Improvement (Kaizen).
Finally I have these questions for you:
What type of stress do you commonly experience? How do you deal with distress? What situations cause you eustress?
Share your experiences with me and let’s continue the conversation!