Listen to this inspirational TED talk by Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal. In my earlier post on Voluntary Stress, I wrote about the importance of attitude in how the body and mind respond to stress. McGonigal’s presentation here makes a nice connection between the psychology and the hormonal physiology of stress. Towards the end of the talk there is a very interesting discussion of oxytocin and the social dimension of the successful stress response.
Thanks to Tony Kiel and Marnia Robinson for each making me aware of this great talk.
How much weight lifting or other exercise is optimal for fitness? What is the right amount of carbohydrate restriction or fasting for sustained weight loss and health? What level of exposure to allergens will reduce allergies? How many hours of sun tanning is healthy? How frequently should plus lenses be worn to reduce myopia? Do I need to take cold showers every day to get their benefit? How much stress is enough — and how much is too much?
Many of the questions I get on this website and the forums are of this type. People understand the general concept of hormesis, namely that exposure to controlled amounts of stress can be beneficial, because it elicits beneficial adaptive responses in the organism. They understand that weight lifting builds muscles, and that intermittent fasting and calorie reduction can be healthful. But too much of any stressor — weight lifting, caloric restriction, sunlight, allergens – can have adverse consequences. With hormesis, it seems, the Goldilocks principle applies: to get a benefit, the level of stress must be “just right”. And because it’s so easy to veer into overload, many people seek to avoid even mild stress: Avoid allergens. Cover up with sunscreen. Eat frequent small meals. Don’t exert yourself. But if you choose this path, you forgo the possible hormetic benefits.
So how do you determine the optimum level and frequency of exposure to a stress? And how much rest or recovery between exposures is optimal? Read More
Do adaptations to stress exposure show up as changes in blood chemistry or heart function? The answer appears to be “yes”. In his Newsweek article “Lessons in Survival”, Ben Sherwood reported on a very interesting study of elite Army Airborne and Special Forces soldiers that probed the differences between those who could and could not endure an extremely stressful 19-day mock-prisoner-of-war camp. The Resistance Training Laboratory, located at a secret location near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, subjected participants to sleep deprivation, blaring music, semi-starvation and — worst of all — intense interrogation techniques used by enemy forces during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. “The goal is to simulate hell on earth like the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam or Al Qaeda’s torture chambers,” according to Sherwood. In another test of mettle, at the Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center in Florida, trainee divers were put through stressful routines such as being thrown into a pool with their hands and feet bound, and underwater ocean swimming from 3 miles offshore to a target on shore.
Posted 15 Jan 2010 — by Todd
One of the best explanations of the use of “stress oscillation” for increasing physical and mental toughness can be found in the works of James E. Loehr, an athletic coach turned corporate consultant. Loehr worked with star athletes such as tennis legend Monica Seles and Olympians such as speed skater Dan Jansen to improve their performance and bounce back from defeat to become tougher and more resilient. Loehr’s insights are well summarized in two books, “Stress for Success” and “The Power of Full Engagement”, the latter co-authored with Tony Schwartz.