Lower your stress for better results
I think it's safe to say everyone is dealing with an increase in stress over the last few weeks and months. In times like these, and many other times in our lives, we cannot control this stress -- unless we decide to hole ourselves up and ignore the news and the world around us.
The problem is, stress can cause issues with just about every system and function in your body. Not only can this cause discomfort, but it can lead to health issues and even affect your progress in the gym. Whether you're trying to shed some fat, build some muscle, get stronger, increase your performance, or just be healthier, stress can make an impact.
If we can't control this stress and it might be harmful, what are we supposed to do?
Think of your stress load, also known as the allostatic load, like a flowing river -- it moves along, rising and falling with the seasons of rainfall. But if it rains too heavily in a short amount of time, flooding can happen and cause destruction. Similarly, our stress load can rise and fall. If it's "dumped on" in a short amount of time, our bodies have a hard time keeping up.
What we can do is limit the number of other stressors we place on our bodies during these times of excess. While we can't control all of our stressors, we can control some. All it takes is some awareness of when your stress load is high. When creating training and nutrition programs for my clients, I always keep their stress load in mind by checking in with them periodically. We adjust their training to be a little less challenging when stress is high or we kick it into high gear if they've been feeling good. Along with controlling what you're able, you can add in activities that help calm your nervous system -- which will help your body recover from the added stress.
Some ideas of things that might be in your control to decrease your stress load (these will not be in control for everyone):
Avoid high-intensity exercise or decrease the amount you're doing
Say "no" to extra work or ask for help
Limit your screen time, especially with social media and the news -- look at it just often enough to stay informed, but don't let it consume your free time
Avoid watching shows or movies that cause you to feel "on edge" or scared
Eat mostly whole, nutritious foods and avoid highly processed foods
Some activities that can help calm your nervous system:
Going for a walk outside
Yoga, stretching, foam rolling
Meditation or mindful breathing
Hugging a loved one
Getting enough sleep -- ideally 7-9 hours each night
Writing in a gratitude journal
If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress and/or having extremely worried thoughts, reach out to your medical provider or mental health professional.
What can you eliminate or add to help with your current stress load?