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Stress: History & Current Understanding

I'm interested to find out if their is interest in a webinar on Stress?

This could lead to a one day theory-practical course.

When I first began to understand the concept of stress, we had Walter Cannon who coined 'flight and fight' evolving his understand from the 1920's and the term 'homeostasis' in 1935. to mean: "as the stability of the internal environment controlled by a series of regulatory systems maintaining constancy in physiological processes – thermoregulation, glucose metabolism/regulation, water balance, and cardiovascular regulation by various pathways responding to renew balance after any perturbation."

Hans Seyle's published his seminal work; GAS Genral Adaptation Syndrome in 1950. Selye (1936) defined the stress as “a non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”, formulating the notion of the general adaptation syndrome. This general adaptation syndrome consists of three-stage response to exposition to stressful stimuli – alarm phase, resistance, and exhaustion. This was the gold standard in our understanding for quite some time

Seyle's theory maintained it prominence until the 1990's as this did not feel as complete and understand the complexity of factors underlying such as broad based subject.

Then came the concept still utilised today as Allostasis and Allostatic load. The classic concept of homeostasis suggests that stability of each vital physiological function is achieved through a reactive strategy, which means that any change of the regulated parameter away from its invariant range of optimal values elicits a corrective reaction to return the variable back to the baseline level.

Thus, the principal mechanism of homeostatic regulation is represented by a coordinated system of negative feedback loops which terminates the response after restoration of homeostatic state. Importantly, the original theory of homeostasis did not include an ability of learning and anticipation of future perturbations which allows the organism to prepare for the environmental demands, activate the protective mechanisms, and reduce potential damage caused by stressors.

However, a more modern (1990) concept of stress response is based on the concept of allostasis and allostatic load (Sterling and Eyer 1988, McEwen and Stellar 1993). Specifically, the term „allostasis“ (from Greek word „allo“ – unstable, mutable) represents the ability to achieve stability through a change of physiological functions arising from activities of the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, endocrine, cardiovascular, immune, and metabolic processes.

The wear and tear strain which is put on the organism due to chronic or frequent activation of allostatic mechanisms has been termed allostatic load (McEwen and Stellar 1993). The concept of allostatic load summarizes the overall effect of stress on various organ systems and connects the mediators of stress reaction with pathomechanisms of certain diseases.

Thus this leads to two newer models competing for a more comprehensive view of stress.

The Adaptive Calibration model and the Prepatory Set associated with a BodyMind perspective.

The Adaptive Calibration model specifically assumes that individual differences in stress response are mainly the result of conditional adaptation, i.e. the evolved organism's ability to modify its developmental trajectory to match the conditions of the social and physical environment.

In this model it proposes that as we adapt successfully brain plasticity adapts to enhance functioning based on adaptive responses to past challenges.

Whereas Prepatory Set (PS)acknowledges these theories and goes on step forward to elicit tangible methods to work with Stress.

First Stress is not definitive enough. The PS involves integrated action of the subcortical systems controlling muscle tone and posture, breathing, autonomic/visceral state, affect, attentional arousal, and expectation.This models premises if we intervene in one aspect we affect the others.

PS ties together Polyvagal theory, Autonomic Nervous System regulation, HPA & SAM axis for modulation and much much more.

The BTES (Bodymind Therapeutic Educational System)claim that once awareness has been achieved it is possible to alter the PS through the use of the following voluntary procedures:

• Proprioceptive or interoceptive imagery;

• Affective imagery;

• Adopting a specific posture;

• Performing specific movements;

• Breathing in certain patterns;

• Paying attention in certain ways;

• Modulating expectation/appraisal.


Let me know if your interested in this material and how it relates to manual and massage therapy?



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