You need to cut it out, stress that is. We all know, or have heard that it’s bad for your health, but what is the key to handling the stress load that can pile up? After all, it’s not like we choose to have stress, or to be stressed. So, what is the key to coping with it and letting it go? First, let’s take a closer look, and figure out where it is really coming from and recognize how “stress” can affect your overall health.
Stress can come in many forms, even hidden ones, or ‘self inflicted’ physical stress. Often times some of our best intentions to ‘get healthier’ can actually contribute more stressors. A heavy workload, busy family obligations, relationships, finances, plummeting health, a traumatic event, or an overloaded schedule can certainly add to our list. But, what about the other areas that are commonly overlooked? Overtraining or skipping rest days, lack of sleep, and not fueling or refueling properly can all wreak havoc, and compile your bodies natural ability to adjust and process stress. Then it is only a matter of time before metabolic processes fall out of balance, adrenals get fatigued, growth hormone production slows down, our immune function is compromised and our body becomes a ticking time bomb for illness and injuries. Let’s face it, no one has time for that.
This sounds familiar, you evaluated your life and see it- you’ve got a heaping load of stress in many areas. How and where do you start? Let’s break it down.
First thing, take an unfiltered, real look at where these inputs are coming from. Be honest, and open about it, and know that not all stress is created equal. Where someone’s busy work schedule may not be a quick or easy fix other areas of stress can be adjusted. Start with what you can control. Learn to say no to extra projects until the ones you have started are finished. Ask for help with family obligations or a busy after school schedule- try carpooling, or alternate who does these tasks. Set aside time to write down a list of what needs to be done and implement a schedule in your home that allows a time slot for everything. Be sure to include sleeping into this plan, this area most often loses priority in a busy home.
It comes as no surprise, we cannot respond to stress input in a healthy or natural way when our body is already run down, fatigued, and sleep deprived. Adults should aim to get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep nightly in order to optimize metabolism, immune system and overall health. Consider this your daily reset button. If you set a bedtime but still struggle in this area try using a bedtime app to alert you when it is time to call it a day.
Another area of concern for excessive stress is in overtraining and inadequate rest and recovery. We live in a time when more seems to be better when in reality more is just more. Overtraining is so common and possibly one of the most universal traits I see in today’s athletes. The good news is, it’s an area we can easily assess and modify. Try this simple self evaluation to see if you may fit into this category:
Do you often skip out on sleep to train? When was your last real rest day? Has it been more than a week, and is this a pattern for you? Do you feel guilty or unsettled if you miss a training session? Do you have joint pain or inflammation that nags at you constantly? If any of the above sound like you, do yourself a real favor, schedule in some rest days and learn to feel good about it. You can even take it to the next level and soak in an epsom salt bath, get on a foam roller, or enroll in a local yoga class.
The truth is we damage our bodies when we tax them physically. This can be lifting weights, running, biking, a physically demanding job, or even competitive sports. During these events our muscles are broken down, soft tissue inflamed, toxins are released, and our immune system takes a hit. Imagine day in and day out putting your body through this, the inevitable is bound to happen- injury, illness and stress overload. The good news is you can control that by simply adding in some downtime. I recommend one rest day with one active recovery day for every 5 days of strenuous physical activity. You can also add in some muscle rebuilding nutrients like Wilderness Athlete Green Infusion and Midnight Build to help support system repair- this of course in addition to rest days!
Now, let’s check back in on the “harder to control” stresses like finances, work, relationships, etc., which many of us carry. What can be done about it and where do you begin to unwind the mess?
Go back to the basics and start with what you can control. Again, this sounds redundant but it is very easy to forget. Just as in any other area of life it will take effort, and time. It’s important to keep prospective and let tomorrow’s worries be tomorrow’s problems. Step back, take a breath and deal with one thing at a time. Create a system and plan that deals with each area of concern.
If finances are the issue, seek out a financial advisor or work to set a budget. Take charge and call a financial meeting for yourself. If you have a troubled relationship ask for help, seek a counselor or take a new approach to finding resolve. It may be time to start over and look at your partner with fresh perspective. Maybe you are weighed down by a hefty workload. Call a meeting, reassess your responsibilities, or delegate tasks if that is an option for you. In most cases, our stresses don’t get resolved until we take action and bring attention to them. This can take a lot of effort and can be a frustrating, but overtime when you make these healthy adjustments things can begin to fall into place.
In addition to the above, setting aside time to refill your cup and spend time doing what you enjoy may be long overdue. If you enjoy the outdoors take the weekend to go rediscover one of your favorite places. Take your family to the mountains, play in the streams, watch the sunset, and listen to the songs nature is playing for you. Maybe it’s time to set a new goal for this summer and find joy in your activities again. No matter what you find to do be present in it, soak it up and take every drop you can- this is your time to fill your cup and retire your stress.
*use code "EFT17" on your Wilderness Athlete order for a discount.