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How the knowledge of hormesis helped me navigate a particularly stressful last 12 months...

In today's fast-paced world, STRESS has become an unavoidable part of our lives…but, is there such thing as GOOD stress…well...YES...hormetic stress.

While chronic stress can take a toll on our health and wellbeing, scientific research shows the positive effects of ‘acute’ hormetic stressors. Hormetic stressors are stimuli that, when applied at low doses, activate adaptive mechanisms that promote resilience and enhance overall wellbeing.


These stressors can take various forms but should be carefully controlled to avoid excessive or chronic exposure that could have adverse effects on health. By embracing hormetic stressors and incorporating scientifically-backed practices into my daily routines, I effectively managed to deal with a period of intense stress.

Here is what I focused on:

6 - 6.20 am -Breathing Exercises and intention setting for the day:

Practicing deep breathing exercises, such as mindfulness-based breathing or pranayama techniques, can have significant stress-reducing effects. These exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, lower cortisol levels, and improve emotional regulation and cognitive performance. Studies suggest that regular practice of breathing exercises leads to enhanced resilience and stress management. They help me set the day off right!

6.20 - 7.30 am - (Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday) - High-Intensity Exercise with weights:

Engaging in high-intensity exercise, such as HIIT or VO2 max threshold training, triggers hormetic responses within the body. Studies have shown that these exercises enhance cardiovascular fitness, stimulate the release of beneficial hormones, and improve cognitive function, ultimately reducing stress levels and improving overall well-being.

6.20 - 7.30 am - (Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday) Zone 2 Steady State exercise:

Zone 2 exercise, also known as aerobic base training, is an essential component of hormesis-based practices for managing stress and promoting overall well-being. This low-to-moderate intensity exercise stimulates a unique set of adaptations in the body, promoting cardiovascular health, fat metabolism, and endurance capacity. Engaging in Zone 2 exercise regularly provides several benefits for stress management. It helps regulate cortisol levels, improve sleep quality, and enhance mood. This type of exercise also promotes the development of efficient energy utilisation, allowing the body to better handle stress and recover more effectively. Research has shown that Zone 2 training activates physiological pathways related to mitochondrial function and oxidative stress resilience. It also supports the growth of new blood vessels, improves heart health, and enhances overall aerobic fitness.

7.30 - 7.45 am - Cold Water Therapy:

Cold water immersion and cold showers have been found to activate hormetic pathways, leading to several beneficial effects. Exposure to cold temperatures stimulates the release of endorphins, improves circulation, and enhances immune function. Cold water therapy has also been associated with increased alertness, improved mood, and reduced symptoms of depression.

12 noon - Good Nutrition to end the 16-18 hrs fasting period:

Fasting, when practiced appropriately, can promote cellular autophagy, improve metabolic health, and enhance stress resistance. Research suggests that fasting supports brain function, enhances cognitive performance, and reduces oxidative stress. When 'breaking my fast' I focus on a balanced diet that includes nutrient-dense fruit and veg that are high in antioxidants, high protein, and healthy fats. This is essential for supporting our bodies during stressful periods.


3pm - Consume my high-protein low-sugar shake. This is so that I can spread out my protein consumption over my feeding window.


6/7pm - Healthy dinner with family, ensuring that I consume the remainder of the protein I aim for each day. Also, over dinner, the family undertakes our gratitude ritual together.

9pm - Quality Sleep:

Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal health and coping with stress. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates, promoting emotional wellbeing and cognitive function. Quality sleep is associated with improved stress resilience, enhanced memory consolidation, and better overall mental health. Implementing strategies for optimising sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a conducive sleep environment, can significantly support recovery from stress.


It is crucial to personalise these practices to suit your individual needs and consult with healthcare professionals when making significant changes to lifestyle. But by tapping into the power of hormesis, I was able to strengthen my resilience, protect my wellbeing, and live my best life in the face of adversity.


References:

Álvarez, C., Ramírez-Campillo, R., Ramírez-Vélez, R., Izquierdo, M. (2017). Effects and prevalence of nonresponders after 12 weeks of high-intensity interval or resistance training in women with insulin resistance: a randomized trial. Journal of Applied Physiology, 122(4), 985-996.)

Seiler, S., & Tønnessen, E. (2009). Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: The Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training. Sportscience, 13, 32-53.

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., & Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect, and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 874.)

Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical Hypotheses, 70(5), 995–1001.)

Anton, S. D., Moehl, K., Donahoo, W. T., Marosi, K., Lee, S. A., Mainous, A. G., Leeuwenburgh, C., & Mattson, M. P. (2018). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity, 26(2), 254-268.)

Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E. (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, 9, 151-161.)

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