You’ve probably heard the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” but did you know that this popular Friedrich Nietzsche quote has actually been proven in research?
Researchers at Northwestern University Conducted analytics that demonstrated that young scientists who failed early in their career ended up with better long-term success than those who did not fail early. While this might seem counter-intuitive, it does fit what many anecdotes demonstrate.
It’s always difficult at first, but all things are difficult at first. This is an ancient saying, dating from Samurai days. More on that below!
Have you ever run a marathon? No? well, you’re not alone for sure. While I’m more athletic than many folks I haven’t either! But what about not just one, but 104? How about 104 in a row? aaaand with a prosthetic leg? Yes, Jacky Hunt-Broersma just recently completed exactly that! Now, why would she feel motivated enough to do that, when those of us with intact legs can’t even get motivated to run one marathon??
Do you see the parallel? Not yet? let’s do one more:
Did you know that immigrants to the United States, despite often having barriers such as language barriers or beginning with few resources (aka money or a network of contacts) are four times more likely to become millionaires than people born in the US?
Why would this be the case? What if our entire nervous system, brain, autonomics (controlling relax vs. Fight-Fight mode) evolved out of stress? What if our system really only operates properly when it has the opportunity to go through stress-reward-relax cycles?
In fact, we are the descendants of people who simply survived. Whether it was plague, tribal warfare, hunting megafauna, or the physical challenges of surviving, we are evolved to survive and thrive in the face of challenges!
So, why does stress seem to be such a cause for disease? What if the answer were…the lack of manageable stresses that “exercise the systems”?
What I’m getting at is that many of us avoid challenges, whether emotional or physical. Modern life has allowed a degree of safety and perceived comfort never seen before. Warm clothes, air conditioning, more food than we possibly could want…What we don’t perceive is that this makes our minds and our autonomic systems weak and lacking resiliency. Then, when “life happens” and challenges occur, our systems cannot cope!
The autonomic system is like an athlete; if it’s exercised regularly it gets more capable. But if it’s relegated to the couch and Netflix…it becomes weaker, less resilient, and more prone to problems. And yes, these problems wreck our gut bacteria, causing even more problems!
As an example, a study by Marcelo de Franca Moreira et al showed that women with endometriosis suffered a degree of pain proportional to their heart rate variability, a measure of Vagal (parasympathetic) function. Better HRV, better Vagal, less pain. This is an example where a better functioning autonomic system results in better ability to inhibit pain.
How can we examine our autonomic system’s health, before it fails life’s challenges? There are many ways that we will discuss later, but one of the more direct is labwork. We can easily assess your system’s neurotransmitters, including stress hormones such as Cortisol and Epinephrine. If you’d like to have access to that type of testing, I have an online clinic shop that you can register with for free, and order tests if you’d like to (as well as supplements to help with whatever the tests identify). You can find my store here; just click on “create” on the right side to create a free account: https://neurodoc4u.wellproz.com/patient/signin
What are the answers to this life dilemna? We’re going to be discussing that a lot more! For now, the answer involves “doing life” in a way that builds up our systems, instead of allowing them to slowly atrophy so that they aren’t there when needed.
Need a little additional reminder of strength, and how “it’s always difficult at first”? Miyamoto Musashi, a famous legendary Samurai, is quoted as saying “It may seem difficult at first but all things are difficult at first”. I’ve created a T-shirt and some other items with this, and other, quotes in my new online store (yup shameless plug but it’s cool stuff!). Check it out here: https://store.aewerx.com/
Richard Matthews DC DACNB