There are many longwinded, scientific definitions of stress I could cite here, but here’s the 60 second explanation. A stressor, or stress, is anything that pushes the body out of homeostatic balance. The stress response is what your body does to restore balance. The stress response is a very good thing.

Every time we’re exposed to stress of any kind, the stress response is stimulated.

The core of the stress response is built around the fact that your muscles need immediate energy to fight or flee in response to stress. The brain tells the pituitary gland to secrete stress hormones, which signal the release of energy from storage sites around the body. This stored energy flows into the bloodstream so your muscles can immediately use it for fuel. The subsequent intense physical activity of the fighting or fleeing uses up those stress hormones and causes a new set of hormones—like endorphins—to be released. These new hormones slow things back down and make you feel calm. The end result is that balance is restored. You’ve just hit the reset button.

STRESS

STRESS HORMONES

ENERGY

FIGHT OR FLEE (PLAY IT OUT)

BLISS MOLECULES

BALANCE RESTORED

The stress response is a beautifully designed system—when it plays itself all the way out. The critical component to the system, however, is the fighting or fleeing, the short burst of intense physical activity. I call that key step “Play It Out,” as it allows the stress response to play itself out as it was designed to restore balance.

Unfortunately many of us don’t get to Play It Out. We stew in our stress hormones and they have many negative effects; shrinking our brains, making us store fat around the midsection, inducing cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods, insomnia and more.

Playing it out is critical to restoring balance and improving resiliency. For more information on how to do it, click the Play It Out tab.