What if I told you humans were born with a self-destruct button? Our bodies are hardwired to shut down when we are no longer capable of contributing to the group. So what activates this self-destruct button? The answer is stress–your body is literally designed to begin “killing you off” if you are feeling stress on a consistent basis.
A little bit of stress is ok. In fact, some stress is essential for living a healthy and successful life. However, when that stress becomes consistent, repetitive or debilitating, you are sending a very different message to the self-destruct centers of your brain
Your Body Under Stress
Stress is the number-one killer of humans. It causes heart attacks, accelerates disease, and makes us forget our rationality. Here are some of the Physiological effects of stress activating this self-destruct button:
- Decreased Libido
- Weight Gain
- High Blood Pressure
- High Blood Sugar
- Loss of Appetite
- Decreased effectiveness of the Immune System
In order to control stress, you must first understand how stress works. Our bodies release a collection of hormones, most notably cortisol, when we are in a stressful situation. This activates the body’s fight or flight response. Let’s look at a car accident as an example.
Your body is sent into fight or flight mode the second it realizes what is happening. You become hyper-aware. Your reaction speed increases. You make a split-second decision to get you out of harm’s way. This is when fight or flight makes sense. The problem arises when we are sent into fight or flight mode over relatively trivial stressors. It is chronic overreaction to these trivial stressors that activates the self-destruct button.
We’ll talk about how to handle stress a little later. First let’s talk about why the self-destruct button exists.
Honeybees and the Self-Destruct Button
The Honeybee is a perfect example of the self-destruct button in the animal kingdom. A Honeybee dies whenever they sting an aggressor. Their stinger detaches in the aggressor, releasing venom through the bloodstream long after the bee is gone. The problem is part of its intestines are removed in the process, which kills the Honeybee.
Why were Honeybees genetically designed with a self-destruct button?
The answer is preservation of the group. Honeybees only sting when provoked. If an aggressor comes too close to the hive, a Honeybee will sacrifice itself to save the hive. Likewise, our self-destruct button developed as a mechanism to preserve the health of the group.
The first human societies formed around rivers. Food and water were finite. There were no resources to waste on those who could no longer contribute to society. Our bodies start to self-destruct when we are no longer fit to contribute.
In an act of survival of the fittest, our reproductive systems malfunction when under chronic stress. It affects a male’s testosterone production and a female’s menstrual cycle. It’s nature’s way of preserving the gene pool. From this perspective, a self-destruct button makes perfect sense.
The question is this: How can we keep ourselves from wallowing in a constant state of stress?
Controlling Stress in our Modern Society
Our fight or flight response is needed sparingly in modern society. We don’t have to hunt for our food or carry our water. The daily stresses we encounter in modern society are trivial compared to the stresses our ancestors faced. The problem is our brains don’t recognize the difference.
The brain senses stress and releases the corresponding hormones. It sends your body into fight or flight mode for even minor stresses. Think about what stressed you back in High School. How silly do those stresses seem at this stage of your life?
You may laugh at how over dramatic you were back then, but the reality is we are always susceptible to such overreactions when it comes to stress. The good news is it is possible to control your stress levels.
The ability to control stress is one of the secret’s of the world’s most successful people. How do they do it?
The first step is awareness. In order to control stress, you have to be aware of how stress works and what stresses you out. This awareness allows you to ask yourself “ is it worth it?”, and most times the answer is no.
I want to leave you with these three things you always have control over, no matter the situation:
- What you focus on
- What meaning you give to the things you focus on
- What action you take as a result
Remember these three things and you’ll keep your self-destruct button dormant.