Time to read: 2.5 mins
Allostatic load is 'the wear and tear on the body' which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress. The term was coined by McEwen and Stellar in 1993.
We go through a lot of stressful situations in our life. Training and exercise, whilst being a fantastic way of keeping you healthy, will provide short-term stress to the body. So, in order to 'live well, live full, live long', we at Life By Equipe want to break down the science behind stress, behind allostatic load, and help show you what's chemically going on. Once we understand it, we can work towards recovering, recharging and maintaining a positive stress balance.
So What is Stress?
‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances'.
The term 'stress' was borrowed from the field of physics by one of the fathers of stress research Hans Selye. He proposed that stress was a non-specific strain on the body caused by irregularities in normal body functions. This stress resulted in the release of stress hormones. He called this the 'General Adaptation Syndrome'.
The GAS theory (shown above), is used to explain short term and long term reactions to stress.
This model suggests that the body elicits a similar response to stress regardless of the mode (e.g. physical, mental or emotional stressors), and that your response is determined by two major systems of the body, the nervous (brain) and endocrine (hormones) systems.
GAS is outlined by three stages;
The alarm phase (phase 1) is the initial response to the stressor (e.g. with exercise it'll be fatigue or muscle soreness).
The stage of resistance (phase 2) is the body’s response, and how it adapts to the stressor it is exposed to (supercompensation).
The stage of exhaustion (phase 3) is initiated when the exposure to the stressor is too long, this may also be referred to as overreaching / overtraining.
What happens when we are stressed?
As shown in the picture above, stress causes many changes to multiple systems of the body. If these stressors continue, these effects can become chronic and negative to our body’s functions. Emotional stress can often be attributed to physical symptoms such as skin issues like eczema and hair loss.
Stress is not all bad
Eustress means beneficial stress - either psychological, physical (e.g. exercise), or biochemical/radiological (hormesis).
The term was coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye, consisting of the Greek prefix eu- meaning "good", and stress, literally meaning "good stress".
Basically, we need some form of overload in our lives otherwise we would simply remain in a state of equilibrium forever… and not much good would get done in the world with everyone like that!
In a nutshell, stress causes our body to adapt and make the body more efficient. Our bodies adapt to the specific stressor placed upon it, by developing strength, resilience or whatever else the stressor may be. This ultimately results in an enhanced human! In terms of training and exercise, this is where the gainz begin!
Keeping a positive stress balance
So how exactly do we keep a healthy level of stress in our lives without it erupting into a negative force?
Research has shown prioritising things via a to-do list helps minimise task-stress.
Check out the Balanced Lifestyle and Wellbeing Journal - it's a 5 star rated journal and planner for helping to mindfully achieve tasks and goals.
Other tips include getting out amongst nature (check out our Park Workouts Exercise Tutorial to combine nature with fitness), taking time to meditate (we have a whole series of meditation videos by the wonderful Holiday Phillips here), making time for social activities, regularly exercising, healthy eating (click here for expert advice on nutrition) - all have been shown as beneficial to reduce chronic stress.