You Can’t Adapt to Chronic Stress
I know this title may be a bit confusing, so let me explain.
We can’t adapt physiologically to chronic (long-term) stress. We can handle it, or we can become addicted to it, but we cannot adapt to it. Chronic stress is always maladaptive; in other words, it is impossible for an individual—any individual—to adequately adjust to chronic stress.
After each stress, we need time to relax and to give our bodies a break. To provide these much-needed breaks, an individual’s autonomic nervous system has two branches: the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates activation of the stress response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.
Whenever a person is under stress of any kind, his or her body becomes out of balance and transitions to the survival mode of living. This is how stress works. The survival mode is the body’s natural response when facing some type of external danger; however, this response is only temporary!
The stress response has been a part of the human experience for a very long time and has done a good job of keeping us alive. Today, however, humans react to stress a little bit differently.
In the early days of human existence, when a perceived danger passed, the person’s stress hormone levels quickly returned to a balanced state.
That’s no longer the case: today, we constantly go from one period of stress to another. There’s no time for relaxation.
One stressful event triggers another, and all are accompanied by strong emotional reactions.
Today, the physiological response to stress is the same; it uses the same chemistry we had millions of years ago.
Unfortunately, today we have no time to quickly go back to a relaxed state. The external threat never seems to go away.
Modern society is under constant, chronic, maladaptive stress, and stress hormones are constantly running through the human bloodstream.
The sympathetic, stress activating nervous system, working 24/7.
No time for the parasympathetic system to relax our bodies.
This leads to a number of possible diseases. As I’ve already said: the survival mode of living is natural, but its long-term use isn’t a healthy way to live. It’s meant only to be used on a temporary basis.
When exposed to stress for long periods of time, we can become addicted to it—we might even desire more of it, because our bodies have become conditioned to it.
So…what’s the solution?
It’s simple. : However, we can handle it in a way that will enable us to live a life that, although not stress-free, is healthy and happy.