Self-improvement/Keto Twitter is very big on the benefits of acute stressors and other types of challenges that come up and is very down on having everyday life be too easy in terms of things like overly abundant food at our disposal and other types of creature comforts. I see a lot of this it seems, one today from @KetoAurelius who included in one Tweet that "your addiction to comfort is crippling you."
I've written a lot of posts about wanting to avoid chronic stress which could come from things like perpetual quotas or deadlines at work, living beyond your means, have bad relationships in your life and consequences for not exercising properly. There's an investment implication coming.
The idea that if it doesn't kill us it makes us stronger has a seat at this table. This is (almost) literally the case with weightlifting. If you work out with the right intensity (only 30-45 seconds in between sets) it will take something out of you, you might be sore or very tired, for a bit until you recover. When I first started including deadlifts into my routine I tweaked my back twice early on. I kept at it and have been able to progress to a heavier weight (it made me stronger) and have not tweaked myself again. When I do this exercise I concentrate on just my form and the movement. I don't want to get hurt again, the concern before I start is a small scale, acute stress and when I complete my sets it is a small, even if very small, victory.
Most of us learn this as kids, we did jumps on bicycles (or Big Wheels), pool hopped and other sorts of things that could have hurt us or gotten us in trouble and would have made our parents cringe. I don't doubt or minimize the consequence to the occasional kid who was seriously hurt but that is the vast minority.
An important word here is hormesis. The sun is an example of something that is hormetic. If you sit in the sun for 20 minutes (assuming it takes longer than that for you to burn) you'll get plenty of Vitamin D, that's a good thing. At some point you get too much sun and you fry--not something you want to do. If you agree with the studies that show a little bit of brown alcohol is healthy for your heart and you have a half an ounce every day you're not doing damage. If you believe a half ounce per day is healthy and you consume a quart a day, you are doing a lot of damage; hormesis. Circling back to the weightlifting example, I believe I get tremendous benefit from deadlifting a weight that no one would brag about, it is challenging, I suck wind and it is intense. If I were to put 500 or 600 pound on the bar, I am quite certain I would not be able to budge it but I could certainly break myself in half trying.
What are your deadlifting equivalents? Maybe they include deadlifting. Another equivalent for me is firefighting, more specifically, fire chiefing. This past week were threatened by the Cellar Fire. It was the third Type 1 Incident (the most serious type) since I became chief in 2012. We were put on standby for an evacuation and on Tuesday, the fire blew up as pictured below;
It was a few ridgelines away but not that many. Having to pack up stuff and figure out where to go is stressful personally and of course as fire chief there is a lot coming at me that calls for the right reaction, the right decision both in terms of interacting with the public and the department's personnel, there is an element of speed with these things and also the ability to effectively engage with the Incident Management Team running the fire. It is complicated and stressful but it doesn't last very long, maybe a week or so, even though it feels like it's lasting a long time. Three times in seven and a half years is pretty acute. I would probably reassess my role if the frequency was reasonably chronic.
I feel as though enduring these occasionally makes me a little more emotionally resilient to adversity and it certainly helps to keep stock market cycles in perspective. Bear markets, like wildfires in northern Arizona, come along every so often but they don't last all that long. Anyone can understand that now, while the market is at a high but the ability to remember that after a huge decline is what makes you resilient.