Stress in exercise
Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body. Small amounts of stress repeated regularly results in adaptations to our physiological responses. Exercise, in effect, trains our stress response. A well-written CrossFit program features workouts that challenge different energy systems in multiple modalities with rest days built in. It is very important to understand that you DO NOT have to kill yourself in the gym everyday, training in this manner results in sleep issues, difficulty accessing appropriate fuel sources, influences the storage of fat, and can lead to chronically elevated blood sugars and insulin levels.
Stress outside of the gym
Take into consideration your total load of stressors in your life. Perceived loss of control over our lives, social media, 24/7 access to unlimited information, and lack of boundaries between work and home life balance all add up. If you find yourself in prolonged states of stress, take some time to define your stressors and initiate manageable stress-management tactics. Changes in nutrition, sleep, and lifestyle can prevent and even reverse the negative consequences of chronically elevated stress.
How you can manage stress
Nutrition: putting the right fuel in our bodies results in better sleep, less fatigue, improved mood, and overall health — which puts us in a much better position to handle stressors.
Sleep: quality sleep in the right quantity is critical to overall health as well as stress management. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation itself acts as a stressor to the body, resulting in increased production of cortisol and adrenaline while putting the sympathetic nervous system in hyperdrive.
Movement: while an acute stressor in the moment, exercise reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol while promoting endorphin production. And in the long term, exercise protects the body from the harmful effects of chronic stress and inflammation while priming our adaptation to the stress response.
Connection: lack of meaningful social connection has even been demonstrated to be an increased risk of early mortality. Send a thank-you note, donate some old clothes to a charity shop, smile at a stranger, or connect with a pet or with nature to decompress and destress.
Stress is inevitable and will always be around, but managing it is within your control. The best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on these simple ways to reduce its impact, and you will live a much smoother, happier, and healthier life.