Stress. We all have it. Some of us to a greater extent than others. But overall, stress has a massive influence in our day to day life. It can also play a big role in our physical progress in the gym. Our training and nutrition could be spot on, but if we aren’t dealing with stress management and adequate sleep, we are missing a huge part of the puzzle!
We have two divisions within our body that are responsible for stress. Our parasympathetic nervous system is where we want to spend most of our time. Here, our heart rate is slowed, and we are in a very calm state. The opposite is our sympathetic nervous system, or our fight or flight system. This division is responsible for increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and increasing blood pressure. We don’t want to spend much time in this state, as it has a flow on effect to a lot of other things.
When we train, we are using our sympathetic nervous system to get us through our session, but then we want to switch in to a parasympathetic state to unwind from the session and to rest and digest. Constantly stressed individuals are those living in a sympathetic state and their body then struggles to carry out a number of bodily functions, which is what will hinder your progress in the gym.
Below are 5 ways to manage stress each day:
1. Meditation can be a great tool to relax and unwind at the end of a day, or to put you in a good headspace. The app ‘Headspace’ is a great place to start for guided meditation.
2. Big, deep, controlled breaths are another great tool to lower stress levels. If you find yourself getting worked up throughout the day, find somewhere quiet and do 5 minutes of controlled breathing with your eyes shut to centre yourself and to calm yourself back down.
3. Massage is a great tool to help you physically and mentally. It also allows you some time away from work, kids, etc. and gives you some time on your own to unwind.
4. Light walks around your neighbourhood or by the beach are great for a few reasons. It will help increase your daily energy expenditure which is crucial for weight loss, as well as allowing yourself to have some alone time with your thoughts. I personally use this a lot and it helps me each day to get my steps up and gets my mind right for the day ahead.
5. Goal setting. This is an odd one, but I know I get stressed out when I have no direction and my days are all over the place. Having goals in place for the day, the week, the month etc. gives me a clear vision of what I need to do, and each goal is broken down in to small goals that I can tick off. Give it a try and see if it helps you!
The biggest thing to remember with stress is that we are never going to get rid of it completely. That will just never happen! But if we can MANAGE stress and keep it under control, that will go a long way to not only helping our mental state but put our mind and body in a position to improve in the gym and to smash whatever our goals are! If you need any help with some strategies, or think stress is having a big impact on your life, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I can talk you through some ways to help!