The ‘General Adaptive Potential’

An image describing the concept of General Adaptive Potential in stress physiology

One of our colleagues Patrick Gentempo coined the term ‘General Adaptive Potential’ (GAP) to explain how the flexibility of our nervous system determines if stress will have potentially good, valuable effects on our health and well-being or if we will pay a price for the stress load we are experiencing.

Hans Selye, one of the original researchers in the topic of stress coined the term ‘General Adaptive Syndrome’ (GAS) to describe the way the body reacts to negative (distress) stressful stimuli. He suggested that the body reacts in this routine pattern every time, no matter how severe the stressor may be.

Yet, what is (negatively) stressful to one person is not necessarily so to another. The General Adaptive Potential as a metaphor explains when the intelligent but unhealthy body reaction (GAS) is likely to begin, and also what determines if this stress-load will become a EUSTRESS or GOOD stress impulse to act as fuel for the betterment of our body/mind.

The flexibility or capacity to cope you demonstrate is a function of the health of your nervous system.

Assume that the combined load of stressful stimuli for you, as it varies across time is shown like like the blue line below, and the flexibility of your nervous system’s ‘power’ or ability to cope is indicated by the solid green lines like so.

If the stress load is within these borders, EUSTRESS – good stress, fuel is the outcome.

If your GAP is lower (red dotted lines), and your stress load exceeds these borders, DISTRESS or harm is the result.

If clients start with us experiencing a health challenge, one of our first processes is to reduce the overall stress load in their lives to bring their stresses within these borders and prime the body toward healing.

Over time though, we want to work toward increasing the width of these borders so you can increase the stress you can cope with and use in your life. Chiropractic care, with its impact on afferent neurological feedback to the brain can begin to widen the GAP – increase the power and flexibility of the brain to respond to stress load.

Let’s move now, to the impact of chronic DISTRESS stimuli in your life, the serious impacts it has on your health and function and how this links to chronic ill-health and disease.

Your body responds to stress by ADAPTING which is a SMART process to BUY YOU survival time, to buy you the opportunity to change the stressor or stressors in your life.

Adaption will only go so far, then the body hits EXHAUSTION, followed by cell (and then, organism) DEATH…usually it is only at these points that OBVIOUS SYMTOMS become apparent!

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