There has definitely been an inordinate amount of stress in my life recently. The past month has brought the sudden death of a family member, my husband's job loss, and culminated in last week's marathon clean up to our rental property in Naples, after the tenants skipped out leaving the place in a shambles and owing us two month's rent. So imagine how comforted I was to read that stress can actually strengthen your body and help you live longer. It's true. The process is called hormesis...when the body is under stress, healthy cells will crank up and produce extra compounds to fend off the harmful chemical effects of the stress reaction. The body tends to overcompensate in favor of the healthy cells, so as long as the ratio of stress is lower than the amount of good cell byproducts, the strong, healthy cells become more plentiful and stick around in the body, defending you against all kinds of other menacing evils that develop with age. Much of the research in this field has been done with physical exercise, chemical toxins, and taxing intellectual work, all of which stimulate the body to create stronger cellular structure and neural connections.
Makes sense, doesn't it? The human body is quite a marvel of self-preservation. Over the past few weeks, I've half expected to look in the mirror and find myself transformed into a withered and decrepit hag - but I usually look pretty much the same as I looked three months ago before all this happened. Well, a few more gray hairs perhaps. Last week before we left for Florida, I wouldn't have bet a nickel that Jim and I could clean, repair, and paint that house ourselves. But somehow we did, working six to eight hours every day, and falling on our faces as soon as we hit our bed at night before getting up the next day and starting all over. As I write this, the finishing touch (new carpet throughout) is being installed, and the house looks brand new.
There are plenty of adages about the human spirit being able to rise to the occasion, and finding strength in adversity. While I know that our troubles are certainly small potatoes in comparision to many others in the modern world, it's still not been an easy time for us, so I was rather gratified to know that my own heart (not to mention back and shoulders!) would come through when I needed them.
And it's a bonus to think that all the stress and all that physical labor last week might have set off a firestorm of cellular regeneration which will help me live longer and stronger.