What is the definition of stress?
What is the definition of stress? What about the definition of disease? For that matter, what is the definition of health? If you are a normal person, you probably said something that was based on how well you feel. For example, if you “feel good, you must be healthy.” Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken.
You can “feel good” by setting super drunk or doped-up on medication of some kind. However, that does not mean you are healthy at all. Do you want to know the secret to be skinny? Just follow the "Rock & Roll" lifestyle: drugs, coffee, and cigarettes.
But is that what you want to do to be HEALTHY? Heck no! If you are a little more versed in natural healthcare, you probably said something that is based on how well your body is working. Now we are getting closer to the truth! So the question changes, "How do you know if your body is working properly?"
You will probably mention a few things about diet, exercise, sleep, and balancing stress in your life … but is that all there is to it? I mean, aren’t their people even in your own life, whom you see as “model citizens?” They follow a brilliant diet, exercise five days a week, have tons of energy, and don’t even use swear words … and still, someday out of the blue they get side-swiped with some type of medical diagnosis.
So what happened? How is this even possible? To answer these questions, I want to take a bit of time to outline a few words that you probably use everyday … but that you may never have taken the time to define or distinguish.
Words like health, disease, condition, and stress. And what I believe you will be surprised to discover is that all of these things are actually normal responses in the body! Before we can even look at something like the definition of health or disease, I need to outline the way that your body actually works.
Is Your Body Able to Take Care of Itself?
True or false: your body is a fragile piece of machinery that is not capable of taking care of itself, which is why we all need medical doctors and chiropractors to take care of us. Emphatically, the answer is “false.”
Your body is an amazing work of art that is more powerful than any of us can fathom, and the best doctor is found within each of us provided that we don’t do things to interfere with its normal function. The full power of your nervous system to press information and coordinate all the internal processes of your body is inconceivable!
If I had to use just one word to describe how your body works, that word would be, "inconceivable." Your body is essentially machine-controlled and coordinated by your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). However, this is no ordinary machine! Your brain (100 billion cells) control the actions of 37.2 trillion cells to the tune of 38 quadrillion bits of information every second! Inconceivable!
This is not a linear system where A causes B. There is an innate wisdom of the body that processes and coordinates all these processes to keep your body working in harmony. It is constantly adapting to signals from the internal and external environment to keep your organs working just the right amount - not too much and not too little - based on the demands of the system.
A causes B-Z but varies depending on the circumstance. Inconceivable! For example, if you need to run away from danger, your body innately shunts blood from your digestive system to heart and muscles. And that’s just one example.
Can you imagine if you tried to coordinate all these activities PLUS all the other changes that happen in your other organs PLUS allowing your muscles to work in a smoother manner PLUS all the hormone changes that happen within your body in an instant PLUS maintaining control of the thoughts and feelings going through your brain? … and then change it all again in a minute because of the demands on the system change! Inconceivable!
That is the nature of the machine that is you! I illustrate this example simply so that you can give credit where it is deserved. That your body is a marvel of universal engineering capable of achieving inconceivable feats that no human could even begin to consciously control. By outlining these processes, I’d like to give context now to two essential terms: stress and adaptability.
The Definition of Stress
Stress is anything that your body needs to adapt to. It is input into your central processor (i.e., nervous system). The definition of stress is neither good nor bad. It is just input! Now, there can be too much input, where you can get a sense of feeling overwhelmed.
But in just the right quantity, stress produces positive changes within the body (called “eustress"). The flip of that is that there can also be bad input, which is called “distress,” which causes your body to adapt in ways that will not be good for your long-term survival … but more on that later. For now, the simple recognition that stress is simply input is what I need you to understand.
The Definition of Adaptability
The ability of your body to adapt to stress is the key to life ... and the TYPE of stress is what will determine the quality of your health. Adaptability is the ability of your body to receive input and processing information without breaking down and to make an appropriate change based on the nature of the information received.
I often use the analogy of a computer running programs. Adaptability refers to the processing power of the computer. Under normal circumstances with just a few programs running, the computer will be able to work just fine. However, if you turn on every single program all at once, it lowers the available processing capacity of the computer, causing it to slow down.
When we talk about adaptability in the human body, think of it as the range of your ability to process stress (whether eustress or distress). As an illustration, you know how when you’re REALLY tired that your normal tolerance for things that bug you go way down?
It's the same thing, but on a much larger scale when we’re talking about the 38 quadrillion things that happen in your body every second. By understanding the definition of stress and adaptability, now we're ready to consider the definitions of health and disease.