Homeostasis – the ideal state A systemic balance continually regulated by bodily mechanism When you receive a stressor, it knocks you out of homeostatic balance
7 stress responses designed to save your life – 1. Mobilization of Energy – 2. Increased Cardiovascular Tone – 3. Suppression of Digestion – 4. Suppression of Growth – 5. Suppression of Reproduction – 6. Suppression of Immune System – 7. Sharpening of Cognition Whether you need it or not!
So, how are you still alive? Sapolsky wanted to know, so he ran experiments on rats. – The rat, like a human, could recover from a stressor if there was An outlet or support for the irritation experienced A sense of predictability or control A perception that the situation might improve Social support
What else about humans? The second most important predictor of mortality is degree of social connectedness. Studies show a threefold difference in life-length for people who have a strong social network.
When we want stress Humans find mild and transient stress stimulating – A challenge – Tickling – A poker game – A scary movie Mild stress creates increased dopamine levels—which can be addictive
Stress addiction Enjoyable stress produces dopamine, which is pleasurable – But the dopamine levels decrease over time – Then, it takes even more stress to create the same pleasurable experience Especially when people feel they are relatively safe – Like roller coasters and fun houses at Halloween
The traits of stress hardiness You can tell the difference between things that are threatening and things that are neutral You do not feel immediately helpless when threatened – you have a sense of efficacy
The traits of stress hardiness You can tell when you have won or lost – you can tell if an outcome is good or bad You do not tend to mope over loss
Baboons who had these traits outlived their cohort by up to three years – Baboons can live for up to 45 years The baboon fountain of youth
Who ages well? How society treats you helps determine how well you age – For example, in Africa, older people show little sign of geriatric depression, as opposed to here, even though their general circumstances are worse – But in Africa, elders have a respected and defined role – People aspire to this role throughout their lives – Elders are neither isolated nor disrespected
Which humans cope well? Those who have a paradigm to make sense of things – Like religion, science, art or philosophy Those who can compartmentalize stress into real, but manageable parts Those who are not in denial do best in the long run
When control helps In a study, doctors discovered that patients who had unlimited access to pain medications actually took less Nursing home patients who had plants to care for had fewer emergency needs Having more access to info about what will happen to you creates fewer medical difficulties
So ask yourself, “Is there a lion or not?” When you’re stressed, ask – Is there danger or not? – Can I realistically do anything? – If so, what? – Can I make sense of this? – Do I have control? – Can I learn more about this?
A few more tips on stress hardiness The Four A’s Avoid the stressor Alter the stressor Adapt to the stressor Accept the stressor
Avoid the stressor Learn how to say “no” Avoid people who stress you out Take control of your environment Avoid hot-button topics Pare down your to-do list
Alter the situation Express your feelings, don’t bottle them up. Be willing to compromise. Be more assertive. Manage your time better.
Adapt to the stressor Reframe problems. Look at the big picture. Adjust your standards. Focus on the positive.
Accept things you can’t change Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Look for the upside. Share your feelings. Learn to forgive.
The hope for a better past will never yield a stress reducing outcome