We all know that stress can be lethal, but do you know why?

The human body can handle an amazing amount of stress, so why can it be so lethal?

The type of stress that kills us is long term, sustained stress rather than normal short bursts of stress that we all encounter.  Our bodies are designed to handle short bursts of stress in order to survive and avoid being eaten by other predators.  I won’t go into all the physiological actions that happen under stress, but suffice to say that our bodies go into overdrive.

As long as the periods of overdrive are not too long, the body suffers no damage.



For example….

If you drive a sports car hard the way it was designed, then you do no damage as long as you don’t leave the engine at redline for too long. If you do, eventually the engine will blow. The same engine that was designed to be driven hard all day long is the same engine that you could destroy by pushing past redline for just 30 seconds. Many modern engines today will cut the throttle if you pass the redline, but unfortunately our bodies don’t have that feature.

It is sustained stress day after day that is the killer.

We were not designed to operate that way.  One of the best ways to feel how the body deals with stress, and why stress is a contributor to poor health, is with the rubber ball test.

The Rubber Ball Test
  1. Get a rubber ball that fits in your hand.
  2. Squeeze it as hard as you can and hold the tension. Eventually your hand and arm will ache and then tremble until you have to release your grip. Note how long you were able to hold it.
  3. Now take the ball and squeeze it just as hard but for only 15 seconds, then release and shake out your hand and arm and relax for one minute.
  4. Squeeze the ball again for the same amount of time and relax for the same interval.

Notice that you can only hold the ball for a short time with no relief, but you can squeeze and release the ball all day long. The body is designed to endure great deals of stress for short periods of time, as long as they are followed by relief.

Look at the stress a woman can endure during childbirth or a long-distance runner in a marathon. The great killer is stress without the proper relief.

This is why our returning soldiers have such a difficult time re-entering society and have so many health problems. Their minds and bodies were subjected to long term, intense stress. If you are going into a stressful situation, you should already have a plan on how you are going to relieve that stress. For us, who live on the battlefield of life, that is called recreation.

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