What is stress? Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
Stress can be divided into two categories:
In my opinion, Stressors themselves aren’t “bad”, it is your reaction to them, which is dependant on your state before you were exposed to them.
When you experience ‘stress’ in the body certain hormones ae triggered and these initiate glucocorticoid and adrenaline release, which in turn affects your nervous system.
There is an interplay between two systems;
Stage 2 – Adaptation:
With repeated stress the body becomes tired and less responsive to the effects of cortisol. This calls for more cortisol to be produced. You start to suffer from chronic fatigue and show signs of poor immunity.
Stage 3 – Exhaustion:
Eventually your body can’t even produce enough cortisol so levels are extremely low. You will fall to pieces with even the slightest stress, get irritable, can’t concentrate, have no energy and get depressed. You may even experience headaches and become prone to inflammatory and degenerative diseases.
Ways to combat Stress:
2. Journaling and expressing gratitude:
Literally writing down how you are feeling and what you are grateful for can also give you a great perspective on what you might perceive as ‘stress’ in your life. ‘The Five Minute Journal’ is a diary I use every morning and night to document my day. In the morning I write in it; 3 things I am grateful for, 3 ways of how I can make my day great, and a daily affirmation such as; I am healthy and surrounded by people I love. Before bed I journal 3 amazing things that happened in my day and some way of how I could have made the day better. These don’t have to be complicated things just simple aspects of life such as; the shopkeeper smiled at me today and I could have spent longer this morning meditating.
Everyday we accumulate stress. This is stored in our minds as anxiety or in our bodies as tension. The underlying philosophies of the Eastern martial arts and the ancient Indian traditions all teach that tension blocks the flow of vital energy, and stops us being rejuvenated. Therefore the purpose of doing yoga helps release the blocks, unlock the tension and allow us to return to a state of equilibrium.
Exercise and intense training get your body into an SNS dominant state and releases cortisol in the body but this is the good stress I talked about earlier. Your body goes into ‘fight’ mode. After training endorphins (happy/’feel good’ hormones) are released. Low intensity exercise such as walking also has a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
Foam rolling and stretching are also effective tools to activate a PNS dominant state. Foam rolling and stretching is a great tool post-training or before bed. This helps loosen out the body and increase flexibility
6. Reduce use of stimulants:
Stimulants such as tea, caffeine, cigarettes, chocolate and other caffeinated drinks can also raise cortisol levels, leading to irritability and trouble sleeping.
Taking time away from your stressors is a good idea if you wish to overcome them too. This time off allows your adrenal cortex to desensitise to the effects of ACTH. This would ideally be in the form of a holiday completely away from your current surroundings but even leaving your work “in work” and completely forgetting about it when you are in a different environment (at home) is a great place to start.
Sinead Griffin - Personal Trainer