Are you Stressed Out?

stress therapy and management helps in relaxation reduce tension

A Tribe Called Quest put it best in their song “Stressed Out” with the lyrics, “I really know how it feels to be stressed out, stressed out”. We all know that feeling. Traffic is crazy or someone does something to set you off and before you know it your heart is racing, your breathing becomes short and rapid and your mind is racing. This is not a something we want to repeat over a lengthy time period. Unfortunately a lot of the population walk around everyday in a state of “fight or flight”. Their stress response has become a conditioned state of everyday normality. Short term is fine, a conditioned chronic use of your stress response is where you may be in deep trouble.

In order to make sense of how we handle stress let’s think about it like this.

When humans first roamed the earth, lions or other animals may cause a “fight or flight response” from our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) if they tried to kill us for dinner or a snack, depending how big your are. Our bodies respond by being on high alert, we sprint and get away if we’re lucky. That was every once in a while.

Today, in modern society, we perceive a lot of things as stressful. Waking up late for work, the drive to work, work itself, bad food choices, lack of sleep. Rinse and repeat.

Within the ANS we have Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems. Sympathetic is “Fight or Flight” and Parasympathetic is “Rest and Digest”. Ideally we would like to stay more in the Parasympathetic side of things. Staying relaxed more than stressed allows us to live longer. Seems like common sense right? It is but a lot of people fall into the stress trap everyday and are now so accustomed to it that it has become part of their day. This is the CONDITIONED part. Allow this to happen over 30 years and this is the CHRONIC part.

sympathetic-vs-parasympathetic

How can you go about counter acting this stress and start living predominantly in the “Rest and Digest” side of things? Two easy ways to combat stress starts with the following:

a. What we perceive as stressful

Never forget we are in charge of what we perceive as a stressor. If your favorite sports team looses a game and you freak out, yea thats not gonna help you live longer. Believe I learned this lesson the hard way. Thanks Liverpool FC for taking years off my life!

b. How we breathe in reaction to everyday events

Having a little more self awareness to not perceive daily incidents as stressful can go a long way to alleviating unnessecary stress your body has to deal with. I like to think of Biggie Smalls in “Party & Bulls**t” where he interrupts a fight with “Yo, chill man, chill”. (2.46 mark)

“Chill man, chill”

Constantly emptying the sympathetic stress response does not lead to good things.

Take into consideration the following.

  • More people die from cardiovascular disease every year in the USA than all forms of cancer combined.

Being constantly stressed out leads to chronic inflammation. This inflammation may not kill you the first, second or even the fifteenth time. Stress is the silent killer.

Chronic Stress —-> Chronic Inflammation —-> Higher chance of disease/injury

What Can We Do?

As a physical preparation coach I am going to approach this from what is easily achievable at home and in the weight room.

Know how to “Tone Down” or just simply relax. Everything you go through takes a toll on your body. When you wake up in the morning your stress barometer is at zero, then as you experience different stressors, your ability to efficiently deal with stress decreases.

7 Ways to Deal with Stress

  1. Go to bed early
    • Preferably before 10pm. Minimum 6 hours, shoot for 8.
  2. Meditate everyday for 5 minutes.
    • This can be challenging depending on your stress level. Start with 2 minutes three times a week.
    • Just clear your mind of “what you need to do”.
  3. Learn how to breathe correctly and use it before and after your workouts (See anyone who incorporates Postural Restoration Institute techniques)airdyne-sprint
  4. Condition Like a Pro
    • Use the 80/20 rule (80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts)
    • High Intensity Intervals do have a place (20%)
    • The 80%
      • Cardiac Output aka aerobic work at a constant heart rate of 115 to 130 bpm for 45-60 minutes
      • Tempo Intervals
      • Strongman Endurance
  5. Keeping a “Gratitude Journal” can help tremendously in alleviating stress.gratitude-journal
  6. Do something everyday you loved as a kid. This can be big or small.
    • For example, I play ISS Pro Evolution on the Playstation 2 on the weekends.
  7. Track your Heart Rate Variability 
    • This rating gives you insight into your ability to handle stress in the day ahead
      • Red = No training/Low stress stolerance
      • Amber = Light training load/Recovery session
      • Green = Developmental session/High tolerance to stress demands for the dayhrv

 

I hope this article gives you a better understand of our bodies deal with stress and how to go about minimizing the negative effects of stress.

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