Everyone is talking about stress. “It’s bad for you. You need to relax more. Create some me-time. Deep breathing. Mindfulness. Try yoga.” What is really going on? Is it all bad news?
“Stress” – work deadlines, family stresses or financial pressure etc – can be detrimental to your health, but how much? Is some stress necessary?
There IS such a thing as good stress. To be productive we need a certain amount of pressure. Deadlines are important, otherwise nothing would get done. We also need to put our bodies through a certain level of “stress” to produce a change in our strength and fitness.
In basic human terms, stress is a change in our physiological state (i.e. our body) in response to what our bodies deem to be a dangerous situation. As cave men, we needed to be able to run away from danger. In this “stressed” fight or flight state aka our sympathetic state the body manipulates our hormones for survival. We don’t have this same need for survival anymore, we all know where our next meal is coming from. We need to be able to relax again afterwards to put our bodies back into a balanced hormonal state. Physical training e.g. a workout, puts a stress on our body. However, once we have finished training we want to go back to a relaxed state in order to recover from the “stress” so that we can reap the benefits of training.
Long term mental and physical stress is a serious health issue and should not be underestimated. Consider whether any of these are a regular occurrence for you:
- Lack of sleep
- Financial trouble
- Work pressure
- Family relationship problems
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
- Poor quality food (e.g. fast food)
- Poor body image
- Dehydration (1l water or less per day)
- Environmental pollutants
The effects of long-term stress are dangerous to our physical and mental health. They are attributed to some serious health complications including:
- Anxiety, depression and poor mental health
- Gut health issues e.g. IBS
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Weight gain
- Low immune system
- Over / under eating
- Slower metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories)
- Losing muscle (which can lead to injury)
Perhaps it’s time to sit down and work out whether you are suffering from stress. The long-term results of this are not only going to affect you, but also your loved ones and those around you. Let’s thrive and not just survive this year. Decide on a few actions that you can take to start reducing stress and take care of yourself. Make them a regular habit and you’ll start to see some positive results. Maybe you’ll be happier at home, your health will improve, you might get your blood pressure under control, you’ll lose some weight and you’ll take life by the horns!
Here are a few ideas of things you can start to do:
- Exercise regularly / move more. Take a walk, join a gym, go dancing, play sport.
- Go to bed a little bit earlier. Even just 30 minutes makes a difference.
- Spend less time on your phone. Switch it off/airplane mode 1 hr before bed.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption. Monday – Thursday alcohol free?
- Try a guided meditation app. E.g. Headspace
- Read a book
- Join a social group e.g. dance, running, book club
- Spend time with friends and family
If exercising is something you want to do more of, why not come and try a workout with us at The Fit House! We offer a 1 week free trial for classes and a free personal training session to all new clients. This post was produced originally for our partners at The Bread House cafe in Chalfont St Peter.