We all have things that we go through that stress us and that’s just a natural part of life, however.. too much stress can have adverse effects on our well-being in a few different areas of our lives. One of those areas includes fitness and our ability to maintain a healthy life style so, we're going to chat about it!
How does stress affect our workouts?
Stress is basically a feeling your body experiences when it feels threatened and so our nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones. Similar to cortisol and adrenaline which pushes your body into a flight- or flight mode, your heart rate increases, muscles tense, breathing changes and as a result, your body is forced to work harder.
Now, in a work out situation, these things may be a positive thing but there’s really nothing healthy about stress. Unfortunately, if you’re exposed to high levels of stress over days, months or years, your body will start being negatively impacted and you’ll find your body and mind worn down.
Some of the side effects of stress include;
- Lack of motivation.
Stress can sometimes motivate people to push themselves and work hard and a good example of that is when you have a deadline at work and have to push yourself to achieve a task or when you’re in a marathon and find yourself struggling but have to focus on the finish line. These instances are fine however, when we’re overly stressed, we find it hard to sleep, eat engage with people and result to things like eating, binge watching Netflix or isolating ourselves. We all know that those things in excess, just aren’t good for us.
- Our concentration is affected.
Stress also impacts our ability to perform and so when we find ourselves in overly stressful situations frequently, we stop focusing on things that require our attention and may drop the ball. According to an article by Dr. Joseph Mecola, he says that when you’re stressed, you are pre occupied with the source of stress (internal focus), so you have fewer resources available for the task at hand (external focus).
- Our coordination is affected.
Research has shown that high levels of stress also affect our Cerebellum which is the portion of our brain that controls our motor control, co-ordination and ability to process information. So, when our brain is struggling with those basic functions combined with excess muscle tension, we put ourselves in a position where we could really hurt ourselves if we’re working out.
- Our ability to recover is affected.
The thing with exercise is, it is essentially a form of stress because we are pushing our muscles and other parts of our bodies beyond what is ‘comfortable’. As Dr. Joseph Mecola explains, “A Yale study11, 12 involving undergraduate students demonstrates how people with chronic stress take longer to recuperate from one high-impact exercise session. Stress levels were assessed using a psychological tool. An hour after the workout using heavy leg weights, the students with the lowest stress levels had regained 60 percent of their leg strength, whereas the high-stress students had regained only 38 percent.
Researchers attributed the difference to higher levels of cortisol and other stress chemicals, which affect your body's rate of repair. They also postulated that the higher-stress students might have been getting inadequate sleep, eating poorly, and generally neglecting basic self-care, which would have compromised their bodies' repair processes.”
So in essence, there has to be a healthy balance between our mental state, our bodies and awareness of how things are going internally. We need to be able to relax so we can rejuvenate and consequently, our body will thank us for that by recovering quicker.
So, what do I do?
While stress is natural, chronic stress isn’t and so we need to find healthy and effective ways to mitigate that. The first thing to do is to identify where the source of stress is coming from because it’s only then that you’re able to deal with it! Once you’ve identified the source, ask yourself whether you’re able to make changes to try and resolve the issue and if you aren’t seek further advice from individuals that you believe would be able to proactively assist with the matter.
The most important part of avoiding stress is remembering that it comes and goes and regardless of how hard we try and fix things, some things just can't be fixed and that's okay. To be effective, become healthier, more successful or just happier, you need to try and find peace in whatever moment you're in. It's only when you search for peace, that you'll truly find it. When you do, it's the most amazing thing and you'll find your workouts yielding more results and your body loving you for it.
We're going to leave you with some of our favourite quotes;
- “Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” - Mark Black
- To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” - Alan Watts
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