Stress, disease and the Satisfaction Gap
Readers of this column understand that stress is a major cause of acute and chronic disease as well as impeding the body’s normal healing abilities. Additionally, we have touched on the concept of stress caused by what I refer to as the “Satisfaction Gap”. This type of stress touches almost everyone at one time or another. Let me explain.
First, to review, why does stress contribute to unhealthy states in the human body? Stress causes the release of catecholamines from the adrenal glands, hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine which lead to the “flight or fight response”, which is protective in the short term, evolving from our primitive need to defend ourselves from danger. We are conditioned to run, fight or freeze in the face of immediate danger. However, when stressed over long periods of time, ch chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, depression and even cancer can result. Stress also stimulates the body’s inflammatory mediators which, when left unchecked, are at the root of many life altering illnesses.
A Satisfaction Gap exists when there is a difference between where an individual is, in certain aspect of their lives, and where they want to be. This can be depicted by the mathematical equation:
where you are + X = where you want to be. X= the Satisfaction Gap.
An example might be as follows: A man makes $50,000.00 per year as a laborer, rents and apartment and drives an older used Toyota pick-up. His brother-in-law is a lawyer who averages $250,000.00 per year, he lives in a big house and drives a BMW. The first man may experience a satisfaction gap if he longs to be more like his bother -in- law. He perceives that he is not satisfied in his present state, but would be if he had his brother-in-law’s material success. Therefore, a gap exists Stress results placing him in a chronic fight or flight scenario. He is a set up for ill health. If, however, the first man is content with his income and material status and does not envy his brother-in-law, he will not experience a satisfaction gap, and therefor not feel as much stress.
The Satisfaction Gap can occur in any of the major components of essential nourishment - we have discussed career and financial status, but it can also occur in relationships, spirituality and activity levels. A single person who longs to be in a relationship or a married person trying to survive an abusive relationship will feel more stress due to the satisfaction gap than a single person content with their singleness or a couple in a happy, mutually nurturing relationship. A person who feels spiritually empty.longing for some purpose to their life battling depression and suicidal ideations, will experience a Satisfaction Gap in their longing for a meaningful life.
So what do we do to minimize the stress of the Satisfaction Gap? Achieving our goals to attain what we long for may get us there, but we may be constantly plagued by the very human tendency of thinking that we we have is “not enough”. This feeling of scarcity is at the heart of much of the stress of the Satisfaction Gap. When one lives with a sense of abundance, there is far less stress and a much healthier state.
in other words, the happier, more grateful and more fulfilled we feel with where we are, the less stress we will feel to improve our situation to close the gap, and better health and wellness will result.
Therefore, take stock of your lives, feel grateful fo where you are and what you have, and the stress of the perceived Appreciation Gap will be minimized. You can be perfectly happy with your life the way it is, and feel minimal stress. If changes need to be made, make them mindfully with the goal to close the gap and minimize stress! If you need assistance sorting all this out, we at MONACO Wellness can help!
Dr. John Monaco