At Conquering Fatigue Successfully we have key concepts/terms we educate our clients on. These are discussed in depth in our annual online educational programme, and in our 1-2-1 coaching, because we feel a good understanding of these concepts can help our clients understand fatigue (as well as many other conditions) and thus empower them in their journey moving forward. The concepts are allostatis, allostatic load, resiliency, coherence (see specific article here), vulnerability and hormesis. They are discussed briefly below.
“Means literally to remain stable during change. Allostasis is the extension of the concept of homeostasis and represents the adaptation process of complex physiological systems to physical, psychosocial and environmental challenges.”
Although the concept of allostasis seems very similar to homeostasis, it places emphasis on the flexible adaptation process to changing environments or stressful challenges. With homeostasis, the feedback mechanism aims to reduce variability and maintain constancy in the system, such as the pH of our blood. However in allostasis, more variability is favourable because it means that the internal environment has the capacity to adapt to various environmental challenges to support the body system. For example, when we experience a stressful event cortisol will increase as part of the fight or flight response, but should return to normal levels once the stressful event has passed. Chronic stress (or a high allostatic load – see below) may, through various potential mechanisms, result in a new baseline or set point, whereby even after the stress has passed, cortisol production doesn’t return to it’s previous set point.
Therefore, one of our goals, has to be to regain this allostatic mechanism and the previous set point.
Allostatic load refers to the state in which “the normal allostatic processes wear out or fail to disengage or shut off and therefore, the physiological systems are not able to adapt.” Frequent or chronic challenges produce dysregulation of several major physiological systems, including the hormonal system, the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system.
Resiliency is an example of successful allostasis in which wear and tear is minimised, and the brain retains considerable resilience in the face of stress. A resilient organism with the ability to adapt to challenging environments will be able to minimise physiological damage. So it can be defined as “the ability of an organism to respond to stressors in the environment by means of the appropriate engagement and efficient termination of allostatic responses”.
The Institute of HeartMath discuss how resilience is related to self-management and efficient utilization of energy resources across four domains: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
- Physical resilience is basically reflected in physical flexibility, endurance, and strength
- Emotional resilience is reflected in one’s ability to self regulate the degree of emotional flexibility, positive emotions, and relationships.
- Mental resilience is reflected in our attention span, mental flexibility, an optimistic worldview, and ability to integrate multiple points of view.
- Spiritual resilience is typically associated with our commitment to core values, intuition, and tolerance of others’ values and beliefs.
Coherence and resiliency are intimately connected. When we are in a coherent state, the increased physiological efficiency and alignment of the mental and emotional systems accumulates resilience (energy) across all four energetic domains. Having a high level of resilience is important not only for recouping from challenging situations but for preventing unnecessary stress reactions (frustration, impatience, anxiety) that deplete our physical and psychological resources.
Increased personal coherence can be achieved as people learn to more consistently self-regulate their emotions from an intuitive, intelligent, and balanced inner referenc
“A state of heightened sensitivity to a stressor by mounting inappropriate or ineffective defence mechanisms that also implies a lack of resistance and absent or impaired resilience, often requiring external intervention”.
Essentially we can view vulnerability as the opposite of resiliency. We can be vulnerable in the same four domains: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental through such things as unhealthy lifestyle choices.
An adaptive response of cells and organisms to a moderate (usually intermittent) stress
Examples include exercise, dietary energy restriction and exposures to low doses of certain phytochemicals. Hormesis is integral to the normal physiological function of cells and organisms. For example, exposure of neurons to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate during their normal activity results in energetic and oxidative stress accompanied by activation of hormetic pathways that help the neurons cope with more severe stress; however, excessive activation of glutamate receptors can kill neurons in a process called excitotoxicity.
Hormesis & Exercise: Hormesis as a mechanism responsible for the health benefits of a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors. This is best documented for exercise which increases the resistance of musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems to injury and disease.
Hormesis & Cognition: Accumulating evidence suggests that the reason that regular engagement in intellectual activities is beneficial for the brain is that it activates hormetic pathways in neurons.
Hormesis & Diet: The involvement of hormesis mechanisms in the beneficial effects of dietary energy restriction on health, and also highlights emerging evidence supporting a role for hormesis in the health-promoting actions of several widely-studied chemicals in fruits and vegetables.
So a simple way to consider hormesis is that:
“manageable stress exposure may promote resilience and resistance to disease”