Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Will that which makes you stronger, still kill you anyway?

Today I caught a mental fast forward reel on the lifecycle of stress. And before I jump right in, can I just say that I am completely grateful to have a job given today's economy? A pretty flexible one at that, one where I'm able to work in my pajamas most of the time. Infact, I regularly enjoy facets of many things that would otherwise contribute to my personal bucket of stressors. But I digress...

An episode this afternoon involved me taking a good amount of heat at work. Quite normally I encountered a high level of stress as a result, though I try to quickly work through such instances. I reminded myself that these attacks aren't aimed at me personally and thankfully I've developed a magnificently thick (but not leathery) skin over the years. While driving things to a steady resolution, I found myself  in a typical scenario where I was still operating with a recognizable level of stress. Seems minor, right?

Hours later, it occurred to me that because of chronic stress (even positive stress) my body must really be cranking out the stress hormone, cortisol. No worries though, I'm improving my conflict resolution skills and becoming so much more efficient, right? Like everyone says, that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, eh?

Except when you think about constant stress in a more downstream fashion. What if producing cortisol at rapid, continual rates which in turn will supress the immune system, aid in building fat and decrease bone formation is really ruining your body? Mental images conjure up a sickened, overweight, hunchback person bragging about their nerves of steel. Will it matter that you're unaffected by stress down the road if you're already in a state where you're not as strong or healthy from years of managing stress in this way? Are these hardening exercises really worth the potential health risks? Is getting regular exercise, having a drink or the occasional trips to your 'happy place' enough to balance out the bio-feedback system? After years of operating in constant crisis mode, I'm not entirely convinced.

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