Simple Ways to Cope with Too Much Stress
Let’s face it – we all deal with too much stress and it sucks! But can stress be a good thing in the terms of actually increasing our physical fitness? Our featured expert gives us some easy relaxation tips – DIY style – and breaks down why a stressed body can be a good thing!
Too Much Stress?
Has anyone ever come up to you with a look of concern and asked if you are stressed? It’s likely that if you are getting asked the question, the answer has been yes.
This “stress” is usually a combination of poor sleep, an inflammatory diet, and the emotional demands of work and family.
Stress can also derive from an injury. If you get a cut, the injury and the inflammation are a stress to the body. Over time, the body heals and recovers.
If the recovery is done properly, the body can emerge stronger than before. As a Fitness Trainer, I add stress through the physical demands of exercise. My job is to make people better through strength and conditioning.
The way that the human body gets better is through repair from the stresses imposed on it.
Without stress the body gets weak. A sedentary life leads to poor posture, loss of muscle, and loss of bone density. A weak body due to the absence of stress sends us down the road to disease with bad habits and a poor diet. Too many of us are also applying the wrong kinds of stress to the body.
Refined sugar is a negative stress and so is smoking. Who the heck is still smoking and concerned about a healthy lifestyle? The body responds to these types of stress with inflammation. Bad things happen when there is inflammation on top of emotional stress.
Some stress is not only good for us, but also necessary. The right stress will stimulate repair and recovery and the result is we get better and stronger.
Here are two areas you can start balancing stress and recovery:
If work is causing emotional stress, learn or rather re-learn how to breathe diaphragmatically.
Breathing is the only physiological function that we have that is both autonomic (like our digestion) and voluntary (forced breathing during the bench press).
It is the intersection of both and we don’t normally think about it. Picture in your mind an infant fast asleep. Notice how the belly rises and falls with each deep breath. This is how you should breath throughout most of the day.
Practice by placing one hand on your chest and one hand below your belly button. Breathe deep in through the nose and out through the mouth. The hand on your chest should only move during the last third of your inhalation.
Think of air entering your body in the same way that water is poured into a glass. It should start filling in from the bottom up. If your inhale takes four seconds, try to exhale for eight seconds.
When we can control the speed and depth of our breath we start to control our emotions. You can then progress to moving with your breath with Tai Chi or Yoga.
Check your facial expressions and breathing. You shouldn’t look like you are being tortured and gasping for breath.
These are all indications that your body is going where it doesn’t like, so you might need to back of a bit and proceed gently.
Strength and Conditioning
The next area to focus on is strength and conditioning. What is the one thing we should all be doing? Moving properly and moving often.
When it comes to exercise/movement always remember the Hippocratic Oath, “Do No Harm.” This applies if you work out on your own or with a group. The priority should be injury prevention.
If you sit down for a large portion of the day, your upper back, hips and ankles are probably tight. This causes imbalances and limitations with mobility and stability.
A great move to prepare the body for exercise and target the common tight areas is the Lunge Stretch with T-Spine Rotation. This way you prevent injury while improving strength.
If rule number one is do no harm, then rule number two is to push yourself as much as possible without breaking the first rule.
It is only when we push ourselves past our comfort levels that we stimulate the body into repair, recovery and betterment.
The physiological benefits of strength and conditioning training are many including; lymphatic drainage, improving pain and function, increased strength, and endurance…
But this has to sit on top of excellent nutrition, good sleep habits and the right mindset. Otherwise you will overload the body with too much stress and not allow for recovery and repair.
Some high-level professional athletes train up to four hours a day. The best of these spend the remaining twenty hours of the day focused on recovery.
We may not train as much as the professionals but we can learn to find the right balance between stress and recovery.
This will move us away from a life of disease puts us back on the road to health and optimal function.