The semester is in full swing, and like usual, I’m struggling to be a functional human being. Some days, everything feels balanced. Others, I feel like I’m going to fall apart.
My mental state is not all that different from my physiologic functioning. (Yes, I’m in a hardcore science class. That’s probably why I’m basically non-functional is I’m studying so hard because I finally like school again!) Cells may experience hypertrophy or intracellular growth in response to an increased workload. But then again, they may shrink and die in response to an increased workload too. What’s the difference?
The difference usually lies in a variety of factors, including the cell’s ability to respond to stress, not just the stressor itself. Stress is always going to be a part of life. I’m very much learning that life is not just about reducing stress; it’s also about embracing it.
Couple cool concepts:
If you want proof our lives are not meant to be devoid of every kind of stress, we don’t need to look any further than our lab values.
Most of the lab values I utilize every single day in the Emergency Department are a range. The one that are not (D-dimer, ethanol, troponin) are signs of very acute and pathologic (abnormal) function. A D-dimer is a sign of possible pathologic inflammation. Ethanol is a fancy name for alcohol. Troponin is an regulatory protein whose elevation may indicate a heart attack.
The Yerkes-Dodson Curve
Some stress is good. The Yerkes-Dodson curve shows a relationship between stress and performance. Some stress is needed to improve performance. Too much stress makes performance decline.
Though Yerkes and Dodson described this curve about a century ago, we could say that Aristotle figured it out long before:
Aristotle – like Yerkes and Dodson – advocated for finding that sweet spot, that golden mean, between two stressors. He just called them vices. You could call them temptations too.
Balancing my temptations has been key to my sanity. I have a temptation to sit on my butt and watch E.R. on Hulu all day, and I also have a temptation to power through all my homework despite being tired. But I aim for the golden mean: studying hard with breaks for my brain (with usually means a nap over Hulu).
My life is meant for balance just as my body is. The body strives for homeostasis, and I strive for sanity.
I’d write more, but homework is calling. 😀