Your body becomes a bailiff if you don't pay your stress debts....

Bailiffs have been around since Norman times when they become the people who executed the wishes of the lower courts when it came to collecting debts due. To this day, there is a social fear of the person who has the power to enter your home and seize your goods whether you like it or not. However, it is not only the court that can employ the bailiffs, if you fail to pay your stress debts your own body will also take back what it is due.

Let's start with a common example...

A stressful period at work. Perhaps several weeks of burning the midnight oil and carrying your daytime stresses home in the evening. Checking emails before bed. Slumping into an exhausted sleep before waking just a few hours in with everything swimming round your head. You get to sleep again around 4am and start the routine all over again.

Luckily, you have a fantastic holiday booked. The holiday arrives. You fly, land and check in. You come down with a cold or just feel wiped out. In extreme cases, even manflu!

In other situations, the mind and body just cease to play ball and people leave work mid-flow. In 2017, there were more days at work lost to stress, anxiety and depression than to any other cause (15.4million vs 6.6million for the next highest, musculoskeletal problems).

This is because the effects of stress are cumulative and (to use a scientific term) hormetic. Hormesis is "a dose-response phenomenon characterized by low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition". In the case of stress (like exercise), we all need some to adapt, develop and become stronger. This is true of whole beings as well as individual cells. It is good to endure enough stress to challenge our systems and bring about adaptations that help us to grow.

The problems start in ignoring the fact that stress is cumulative, you cannot keep piling it on with rest and recovery and down time to balance it. The positive returns start to diminish and ultimately it becomes destructive rather than constructive.

It's one of those truths we all know intuitively but often we still ignore it (in common parlance, 'tough it out') and suffer the conseqeunces. The frontal cortex of our brains can rationalise many things away but it cannot change the way we respond physically to stress.

The bailiffs arrive at the front door on the order of the court. Your body is your court and you have to respect its limits. If you don't, it will take its own actions no matter how inconvient they may be!

Adrian Webb