(Slides are borrowed from one of our short lectures)
If one plots the effects of stress neuro-hormonal surges against elapsed time, a single healthy and happy stress response will look like this. You are back in the relaxed mode in no time.
Now try plotting multiple responses with happy outcomes. This is normal, healthy & vital life: Physical activities, joyful encounters, satisfying projects, anything with satisfaction and a sense of having control.
But if you do the same plot with an unhappy stress activity that drags on for a while, this is how it would look. It could take days to get over it.
Multiple unhappy events will pile up. You are still not back to baseline when the next episode hits.
The body is engaged in a poker game of escalation. As if each stressor tells the previous one “ I see your hormones and I’ll up you by this much”!
Unfortunately this game cannot go on forever. Within months to years the body gets depleted of its coping resources and the immune system takes a beating. Relationships suffer, aches and pains start to happen and disabilities and serious illnesses follow. The outcome is not pretty. Nobody wins.
The Stress Poker: A Game with no Winners