… in small doses that is. This is the banner of all of those who take pride in being grinders, in exhausting the mind and the body to their limits in order to achieve, who wear their burn out as a badge of honor and see little or no benefit to rest. These strivers, movers and shakers, so willing to sacrifice balance for grit, may have very well experientially stumbled upon something actually true. But as it usually is in life, it’s a double edged sword, making the advocates of moderate stress right as well.
Hormesis is a phenomenon in which an organism exhibits a biphasic response to stressors such as introducing of substances or change in the environmental conditions, directly opposed to the hedonistic moto of “if a little is good, more’s got to be better”. Well no, more might actually kill you and as we mature we’ll notice that moderation is key of life. The word hormesis comes from Greek hórmēsis “rapid motion, eagerness”, itself from ancient Greek hormáein “to set in motion, impel, urge on”. Anything can by useful, to a point. Even poisons in small doses act as medicine. Hormetic zone is a span in which something benefits the organism, and once you’re out of it the benefits turn into degeneration. Were you to look closely at toxicology you’d see a low dose stimulation and a high dose inhibition pattern that gives a J-shaped or an inverted U shaped diagram distinguishing among positive and negative stress. Although the principle obviously exists and has been proven in laboratory and real life conditions over and over again there is a debate going on since not all substances and stressors exhibit the same effects. Nevertheless it is applicable to various micro and macro areas of life, anything from cellular responses, body chemistry, amount of exercise, alcohol intake, workhours, food, emotions, relationships…
What doesn’t kill you (now) might fulfill its mission in the long run if you keep forcing it. There is nothing noble in breaking yourself and left feeling ill, empty or depleted, in not taking care of yourself and controlling your environment the best you know how to optimize your health and sanity, nothing worthy of laureates in bursting into flames illuminating things for a second and then dispersing so that you can’t even continue perusing the mission. We’re all in it for the long run. if you’re noticing cracks starting to show because you’re pushing too hard – step back this weekend. Reassess, think through if it is it worth your health and stability and continue on according to the conclusion. If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, backtrack and find the hormetic zone again where the challenge is big enough to taunt you and force you to improve, and not so big that it crushes you under its weight. Work upwards from there.
Sometimes things take time and these are exactly the ones you’ll need to be careful with when managing your energies. It starts with you. You might be strong enough to swim to the shore of a rough river right now, but may drown if you try it with the ocean. Grow intelligently. Save yourself first so that you could serve your family, community and the world better.