Have you ever heard of Biosphere 2 and its limp trees?

Are you wondering what that might have to do with STRESS? Well…

Biosphere 2 was a structure built to be an artificial closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona. Constructed between 1987 and 1989, it was used to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology. Researchers wanted to see if and how people could live and work in a completely sealed and closed biosphere. It explored the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization, as well as allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth’s environment. The first sealed mission lasted from September 26, 1991, through September 26, 1993. Medical doctors and researchers entered and were sealed into Bio2 where they attempted to sustain themselves entirely off of the mini-earth the engineers had created.

Image of Biosphere 2

If you ever have a chance to visit the facility, you will see that inside the glass domes are many of the Earth’s biomes. There is a marsh biome, a rainforest biome, a savannah grassland, a fog desert and, of course, areas for human habitation.

What does this have to do with you?

So, you may be asking, what does that have to do with me and my life? Well, as you can see from the picture, there was a lot of glass used and everything was totally sealed. There are many times where we try to do this in our lives. We try to create an environment where we are in control; where we are immune to the external forces of the world. This world that we try to create is a world where we want to be able to see out through the glass, and yet be protected from what may be on the other side.

Think about it...

The inhabitants had their own food supply (animals, gardens of vegetables, fruit trees) and water. Solid waste was recycled or used as fertilizer. They had rainforests and deserts, streams and pathways. It truly was as though these scientists had inhabited their own little world. The planners and engineers of Bio2 had thought of everything. Well, almost everything.

Tree that is leaning over at the top.

As time went on and the newly planted trees began to grow, a peculiar thing started to happen… The trees started to fall over. They just drooped and wouldn’t stand up straight. Some drooped near the top (like the one pictured); the fruit trees would bend so far that the fruit would touch the ground. It seemed so odd because fruit trees outside of the glass never bent over like that.

Why, then, in this near perfectly engineered environment, were the trees in Bio2 drooping? The researchers found that they had missed one very important part of life on earth. In hindsight, it’s understandable. You can’t see it; you can’t taste it; you can’t even capture it. What did they miss?

The Wind

The scientists realized the reason that the trees were able to stand tall in the real outside world is because the wind constantly caused the bark on the trees to strengthen. The wind challenged and exercised the trees causing them to grow strong.

All of us want to minimize challenges. I mean, who wants to change and be forced to stand up and battle against the winds that blow against us?

You can choose to avoid it, moan about it, and gripe about it, but that will only leave you droopy and limp. You can, instead, choose to embrace these challenges. Stand up and face the wind, head-on.

You may be pleasantly surprised at how invigorating the wind can be. Sure, it may take your breath away at first. However, when you lean in, you’ll see that you can withstand it. It will add value to your life by providing you with the challenges that make you stronger.

The Stress of the Winds of Change & Challenge

You will never escape problems, obstacles, upsets, mistakes, and struggles. Therefore, your choice – and it’s a choice that you have every single day – is to hopelessly try to cope with them, settling for the misery of wishing and hoping that the challenges never came to begin with, or you can hopefully grow to overcome them, becoming a better you.

An article from Psychology Today in March of 2017 talked about the Stress Mindset. It stated that:

“Stress mindset is the overarching belief that stress is either enhancing or debilitating for cognitive, psychological, affective, and hormonal outcomes. Individuals who hold a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset see daily life stressors as challenges for which they have adequate resources to meet expected demands. Those who hold a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset see stressors as overwhelming events for which they are lacking internal resources to meet external pressures. Specifically, individuals who endorse stress as a challenge, rather than as a problem, on a measure of stress mindset (Crum, Salovey, & Achor, 2013) tend to have better health, greater life satisfaction, lower cortisol reactivity (the “stress” hormone), and are more receptive to performance feedback by others.”


Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Getting blown over isn’t “failure,” it’s feedback. Growth comes from getting a LOT of feedback.
  • Happiness doesn’t come from avoiding trials and tribulations; it comes from overcoming them.
  • You already have resourcefulness within you. You have gifts, talents, and strengths that will reveal themselves once you call upon them.
  • The only thing keeping you from trying is the story that you are telling yourself (your mindset). Learn to ask yourself different questions and tell yourself different stories.
    • Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” you can ask: “What can I learn from this?” – “How can I use this struggle to become better?
    • And then: ANSWER the QUESTION.
    • Avoid asking rhetorical questions and instead ask questions that help you shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. (You can learn a lot more about this in the Mindworx program – stay tuned for more details in upcoming newsletters.)

Let me encourage you to embrace your life’s challenges.

Sure, at times it is going to seem like more than you can bear. You may feel disappointed, discouraged, frustrated, overwhelmed, and maybe even hopeless. In those moments, I hope you will try to take another perspective. Oftentimes, we get locked into looking at situations from only one angle. Ask for help. Ask others for their perspectives. It’s not about right and wrong perspectives. More perspectives equal more options and more choices.

Maybe the drooping trees in Biosphere 2 can serve as a reminder to you… that in order to stand tall, you need the strong winds to challenge you.

  • Take a moment to let the wind blow through your hair (or at least over your skin if you are follicly challenged.)
  • Even if your mom warned you that you’d get your arm ripped off… roll down your window, stick your hand out, and glide it up and down through the wind.

Enjoy all of the beauty and strength that your challenges bring to your life. You and those around you will be so much better because of your decision to do so.

Next month, we’ll talk more about your stress mindset and how to further tap into the upside of stress.

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