William Liao

March 6, 2022

hormesis

When you exercise, your body endures several forms of stress — thermal, metabolic, hypoxic, oxidative, and mechanical. But it’s not all bad, of course. These stressors actually activate pathways in the body that help it adapt to withstand greater stress in the future. 

This process of being exposed to stress, adapting, and becoming more resilient is called hormesis. 

Hormesis happens in all kinds of situations, like when you’re exposed to extreme heat, extreme cold — even when you’re sleep-deprived (this surprised me). 

Here’s the thing, though — and it’s an important thing to be mindful of — we tend to respond well to stressors in small doses and poorly in high doses. 

I like to think that a similar principle applies to any number of challenges we encounter in our day-to-day lives. 

Actively pushing ourselves into uncomfortable situations from time to time is essential for growth, but apparently, so too are periodic breaks from them if we can help it. 

With this in mind, I find myself returning to Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness’ simple yet effective formula from their book Peak Performance: “Stress + Rest = Growth.”