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Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Stress is the silent killer to health and wellbeing

In today’s society there is so much that can make us and keep us in a stressed state. Work, family, technology, social media, keeping up with the Joneses, keeping up with the Joneses on social media. We never really take the time to get out of a ‘stressed stated’.

So much so I believe that we are used to it, and we pile on the pressure with caffeine, sleep deprivation, poor diet and poor lifestyle choices, but sure so what, your body is used to it by now, or is it?

You may think and feel you can get through it with an extra strong cup of coffee or only sleep five hours each night, but I’m telling you that you cant. Sooner or later it’s going to catch up with you. Before you know you will be in a state of chronic stress, and a state which will be multiple times harder to recover from, if at all!

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The problem is that some stress is good, while other forms of stress are bad, very bad. The body doesn’t necessarily know how to differentiate between different sources of stress, creating a constant stress load on the system with additive properties which can not only become detrimental to your health and fitness goals, but also your wellbeing.

If you are a high performance athlete or just want to look and feel awesome, then you better get your stress load under control.

What is stress?
Stress is defined as the body’s reaction to any change which requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.

Our body is regulated by the autonomic nervous system, and this system is always on. Its job is to balance our physiology between calm and stressful states of being.

We have two distinct branches of the autonomic nervous system:

Parasympathetic State: This is when we are calm, at rest, and digesting and assimilating the nutrients from our food. This is where we recover and grow. No surprise that this is the preferred state of being when it comes to fat loss.

Sympathetic State: This is our fight or flight response, which is when we are in a state of high stress. Not all stress is bad. The problem is when we are in heightened states of stress for too long. Stress is crucial for our bodies to disrupt homeostasis, which is what allows us to adapt, grow muscle, and lose body fat.

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We do not want to live in a sympathetic state. We want to enter into it when we train, then immediately get out and return to a parasympathetic state post workout, as we begin the rest and recovery process. In today’s world, the issue is we spend far too much time in a sympathetic state.

Again this could be a number of things from financial troubles, social media, relationships, the environment we live in. The list goes on. So, what can we do about it?

It makes it sound so easy; “Just get your body into a parasympathetic state” and you’ll reduce stress and better manage performance and recovery. Right? Easier said than done for some of us. Like anything it will take time, practice, patience and hard work (hopefully not too stressful) to find ways of getting your body into a parasympathetic state. Here are some things you can try:

Sleep
If I was to tell you there was a drug and if you took it you would live longer, feel healthier, increase your mood, improve your memory, reduce inflammation and stress, how much would you pay for it? Well this ‘drug’ is free, it’s called sleep but the problem is we take it for granted. Please work hard in getting seven/eight hours of sleep every night, not just for your stress levels but for your entire health and wellbeing.

Put your phone on silent or off
Anything can trigger our sympathetic state. Even scrolling through social media can set off some level of stress. It might remind us to buy something in a panic, compare ourselves to others or think your life isn’t as exciting as those on your news feed. Even the noise of a phone can stimulate stress – who is that texting or was it a message on Facebook? All things that can set you off. Place it on silent or turn it off, and don’t worry you’ll soon realise that you haven’t missed a thing!

Get in touch with nature
Earthing is a technique to help you relax through meditation. In fact, you are meant to walk outside, without shoes, and let your bare feet touch the ground while you relax and soak up the sun. Hard in our climate so get outside as much as you can and get some vitamin D. If you get the chance take a drive to the beach on the weekends, take off your shoes and go for a walk.

Studies show earthing sessions of 30 to 40 minutes daily can alleviate pain and reduce chronic stress.

Massage
Any sort of relaxation therapy is brilliant. From a sports massage to a weekend spa. Don’t think of it as a major cost look on it as an investment in yourself. You are there to relax, to let the therapist alleviate the pain, and to listen to calming music that lets your mind take a rest.

Mediation
Too often, our minds focus on the negatives in our life. Meditation asks you to sit and let the focus of your mind go. Instead of dwelling on the thoughts you have, you are meant to breathe out those thoughts, until your mind is empty, and you feel lighter. Try the Headspace or Calm apps to get you started.

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