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Stress, Homeostasis, & Heart Rate Variability

Have you ever felt stressed? It's normal to feel stressed when we face challenges or when something changes in our environment. But what does stress have to do with our bodies?

Our bodies have a special ability called "homeostasis." Homeostasis is our body's way of adjusting and matching our internal states to the things happening around us. It helps us have energy, regulate our emotions, and think clearly when we face challenges.

Stress happens when something disrupts our homeostasis. It can be caused by physical, emotional, or cognitive responses. Even positive experiences, called eustress, can challenge our homeostasis. Eustress motivates us to achieve something with positive results for us, our families, our community, or those we serve. But negative stress, called distress, occurs when we cannot see the potential positive outcomes in a situation and don't feel like we have the resources to meet the challenge.

Perception influences whether a stressor is distress or eustress. For example, imagine your boss gives you permission to work on your dream project. In one scenario, you get all the resources needed to succeed, leading to positive stress and motivation to make your vision a reality. In another scenario, you're expected to complete the project without the essential resources, leading to negative stress that can burn you out.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measures our body’s ability to maintain homeostasis as external or internal demands change. As distress increases, heart rate usually increases and HRV decreases, demonstrating a declining ability to maintain homeostasis. HRV also measures the body’s ability to recover after a stressful event or period.

The ability to handle stress, recover from hardship, or turn stress into motivation for success is a sign of resilience. HRV provides a scientifically validated measure of our resiliency in facing life challenges.

In conclusion, we all face stress, and it can impact our physical, emotional, and cognitive states. Homeostasis, our body's ability to adjust to changes, is crucial in maintaining wellness. HRV measures our ability to maintain homeostasis as external or internal demands change. While stress can be negative, it can also be a motivator. And with practices that improve our HRV, we can be more resilient in facing life challenges.


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