It’s a word that is synonymous with our fast paced life – stress. We are either feeling it, fearing it, avoiding it or triggering it.
Have you ever heard someone say: “I’m stressed”, “I’m burnt out” “I’m overwhelmed”, “You are stressing me out”, “My partner stresses me out!” “I will not do X (or Y) because it causes me too much stress”. It’s quite common really, but what is this phenomenon called ‘stress’?
In general, if an organism is exposed to any environmental condition or stimulus, it will respond to the stressor by trying regain balance. This is called ‘homeostasis’ – a scientific word for the tendency to maintain balance. In humans our bodies will always seek to find a level of equilibrium or balance. When we can’t achieve this level of balance, we may find that we are ‘stressed’.
To demonstrate, take the example of making a chocolate cake using a set of weighing scales to weigh ingredients. If we put too much cocoa powder, flour and sugar on one side of the scales, the scales may tip over and the cake may turn out dry and unpalatable. It’s the same with our own metaphorical set of scales, if one side of our scales is weighed down by lack of sleep, trauma, counterproductive thought processes or overwork, we lose our homeostasis and we become stressed. We may start to see symptoms which include headaches, pain, feeling overwhelmed, worry, being short- tempered, memory loss, difficulty concentrating and a host of other symptoms. For overall health and wellbeing it’s important for us to keep a check on our stress levels.
When was the last time you checked whether you were in homeostasis?