What’s the Seventh Grade Science Term for the Opposite of Chronic “Stress?”
(Hint: Two words, a total of nine syllables)
by Doug Gentz , Ph.D- Psychological Services
Along with intentions to abstain from junk food and resist general slothfulness, most of us try to avoid “stress.” Maybe as long as we’re committed to steering clear of “stress” we could define the opposite so we have a better focus on what we’re trying to achieve. Qualifying at the range is more likely when you try to hit the target instead of just trying not to shoot the berm.
Managing “stress” is mostly about managing the part of your body called the autonomic nervous system.It has two branches – the sympathetic (which is all about excitement and tension) and the parasympathetic (which is all about relaxing). One or the other is always dominant.
The autonomic system is mostly automatic. It’s not normally under conscious control. Only two of the functions in the partial list to the left are vulnerable to direct, deliberate control (respiration and muscle tension.)
Fortunately, anytime we perceive a threat in the environment, our sympathetic system kicks into high gear and odds of survival go up. Unfortunately, thanks to our human brains which give us vivid memory and imagination, we also frequently get sympathetically activated when we remember or anticipate threats.
Chronic “stress” (and all stress related illnesses) occur when, over time, a person accumulates many more SNS activations than balancing PSNS activations. PSNS activations allow us to recover from the costly effects of SNS activations. If SNS activations were like charges on your credit card account and PSNS activations were like payments, then over time you would get into deep financial trouble if you only paid the minimum. Your account balance would continue to increase resulting in greater debt and your economic condition would become fragile.
When we get closer to balancing our sympathetic activations with an appropriate amount of parasympathetic activations, we significantly reduce the chances of the many bad outcomes associated with chronic “stress.” As in building physical strength, the recovery is just as important as the exercise. As in personal finance, staying economically healthy means you manage to “pay the balance” every month.
The physiological term for the opposite of chronic stress is Autonomic Homeostasis (an autonomic nervous system with a balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic activations). This is a great target to aim for if you’re committed to enhancing your personal health.
Blog Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.
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