“Your body has absolutely no idea when you’re getting chased by a bear or at work flicking through Facebook. It’s the exact same response. Heart rate jacks right up. Adrenaline starts pumping through your body, you’re starting to feel a bit delirious at the situation, so you decide to run away – “flight”.
Stress comes in many different forms. Most of us know about the usual stuff like stress from work, or family situations. We deal with these stresses in many different ways; having a glass of wine after work to numb the pain, or going to the gym to take out your anger on certain situations. Most of us don’t realise that these are both stressors on our body. Four things that affect stress are training, nutrition, perception, and lifestyle.
Training – the stress response from training is a good thing. It’s what causes adaptation. Overtraining, on the other hand isn’t so good.
Nutrition – “Rubbish in, rubbish out”. If you’re feeding your body bad food, it’s going to take a lot of nutrients to breakdown, and therefore creates a stress response.
Perception – the old saying about the cup being half full, or half empty. If you go through life thinking all the cups are half empty, you’re bound to live in a stressed-out state. If you’re the optimist is each situation that comes your way, your stressors are sure to be reduced. Remember, the cup is always full. It can be half water and half air… perception!
Lifestyle – what’s your lifestyle like? Are you constantly unorganised, rushing to get places? Or have you planned each day the night before, and know exactly what you’ve got to get done? Do you take regular holidays from work, and focus on relaxing? What’s your network of friends and family like? Do they support you? Can you move on from them, or if not, can you add better people to your support group, such as a Personal Trainer?
Now, moving on…
Let’s chat a little about the body, and how it works. You’ve got your central nervous system (CNS) which branches off into two parts, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSN). Your SNS is your fight, flight or freeze. This is what gets you out of danger. Your PNS is your rest and digest – recovery, reproduction etc. Let’s take this scenario:
Your body has absolutely no idea when you’re getting chased by a bear or at work flicking through Facebook. It’s the exact same response. Heart rate jacks right up. Adrenaline starts pumping through your body, you’re starting to feel a bit delirious at the situation, so you decide to run away – “flight”. This is absolutely normal, your body is a survival mechanism, therefore, it does what it has to, to keep you alive. Eventually you get away from the bear, the adrenaline stops and your heart rate returns to normal.
Now, let’s take the other situation. You’re sitting at your work, flicking through Facebook and you see something that has just made you go mental. Stephen has just put up a post about stress and I completely disagree, how would he know what stress is, he’s never worked a day in his life. (Who’s said this? Hahaha). Anyway, you’re triggered, your heart rate jacks up, adrenaline is pumping through your body and you’re feeling a bit delirious at the full situation. It’s the exact same stress response to a completely different scenario.
In this day and age, we have a lot of potential stressors in life. Some things we can’t do anything about, for example: Kids – you can’t exactly leave your kids at the side of the road, but you can learn to accept that they’re kids, and they’re going to do stuff wrong, that’s part of growing up.
Another stressor in life, that people don’t realise, is training in the gym. Although it might feel good when endorphins are released and you feel amazing afterwards, but training is a stressor. This is a good thing though, it’s what causes adaptations in the body. But… if you add that to the stressors of life, bills, work, kids, and you increase the overall stress, known as the allostatic load, then you’re going reach a limit and like a credit card you’re going to have to pay it back. This is where it is important to add in things that combat stressors. We’re all so focused on beasting the weights but we forget about chilling the hell out. In the gym, work, life in general, we’re always going 100mph, working 70-hour weeks, then going to the gym, and live off 4-5 hours sleep per night. This is just adding to that credit card. It’s important to learn to deal with these stressors.
How do we deal with these stressors?
- Sleep – Let’s go back to basics here. Sleep is the place where you recover. The gold standard is 8 hours per night, although, some elite level athletes won’t have any less that 9-10. It’s important to ensure you are not only getting to sleep, but are you getting quality sleep? Are you sleeping right through? Do you need to wake up for a pee? Do you dream while sleeping? Do you wake up feeling refreshed? These are all things to take into consideration when assessing your sleep. Ideally, you would start to wind down before going to bed. Dim the lights down, turn off the blue light on your phone (Nightshift on iPhone). Make sure your room is completely dark, blacked out curtains, no red light on the TV, you could even wear an eye mask. Bearing in mind, your body has cells all over, so just because your eyes aren’t detecting light, your body still can be, and this can affect your sleep. Once asleep, you want to be asleep for the full night. A good app to track this is called “sleep cycle”. That app also sets an alarm for you, so you can wake up at the optimal time. I highly recommend downloading this and monitoring your sleeping patterns. If you seriously struggle, it may be something you should go and see a naturopath about.
- Meditation We need to get out of the mindset that meditation is all this hippy stuff and start to realise that we’re going 100mph 16 hours a day, we need time to chill out and let the mind be still. There are plenty of good app’s out there which help with meditation. Two awesome apps that I’ve used are “Headspace” and “1 giant mind”. These are both guided, and really help you to understand what’s happening. Don’t get me wrong, you’re going to have to work at this. Meditation is not easy. The first few times you’re probably going to falls asleep, zone out, or not be able to switch off, but that’s normal, stick with it and you’ll get better.
- Stretching/ Yoga. I try to stretch for 20 minutes every night before bed. Training hard 5 days a week takes its toll on you, and stretching is essential for mobility and to stop injuries. I try to stretch at least 5 times per week. Our stretching class on a Thursday is really good as well. Come along at 6.15pm. It’s very similar to Yin Yoga.
Firstly, Yin is amazing for recovery, as it’s all about holding stretches for a prolonged period of time, around 4-5 mins each stretch. This is amazing for your mobility, and as we all know, mobility doesn’t get any better the older we are. There’s also a meditation element to Yin which happens during the stretch. This is where you try to get into an uncomfortable stretch position, but breath into it until you are comfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
- Write things down. Start writing things down and start planning your day. It’s so easy to forget things nowadays, and we rely on our phones for so much, but 9 times out of 10, the best way to remember to do stuff, is to write it down. This in turn, means you won’t miss any important dates. I’d also suggest planning your day out and practicing gratitude. I use the Best Self diary and it’s the best diary I’ve had. It allows you to set your goals and hold you accountable for your actions. It also allows you to plan your full day/week out, and then it has a section for practising gratitude. As soon as you start getting grateful for all the little things in life, everything else seems minute, and therefore you start enjoying life and have less stress.
There four things to get you start on bettering yourself, and reducing stress.
Less stress = happy life.
Hope you enjoy this blog.
Thanks for reading,