For stress awareness month, we’re going to talk about how stress impacts your body and training.
We all know someone that can just go with the flow, live in the moment, and seemingly skate through life without any worries. If you’re that person, good for you! The rest of us lose sleep over nonsense and rush around trying to make it to every appointment on time.
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, but to your body it’s all very similar. Stress and anxiety have their roots in fear. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “flight, fight, or freeze” reaction. If you haven’t, it’s the way many organisms respond to threats.
Imagine you encounter a bear in the wild, your first reaction might be to run away as fast as you can. Or, you might freeze and not know what to do. If all else fails and the bear charges you, your reaction might be to fight.
This natural reaction to a fearful situation is practical for survival. A cocktail of hormones are released into your bloodstream that prepare you for action, making you more alert and priming your muscles for activity.
The bear encounter is an example of an acute stressor. Your body reacts quickly to get you out of the situation. You might encounter such situations in life if you see a car veer into your lane or if you have to defend yourself. Acute stress is similar to but different from the stress you get from work or life stress.
The slow-burning anxiety that many people deal with is like a mild but constant fear reaction. A cocktail of hormones are released into the bloodstream at a more subtle but constant rate. For example, cortisol levels may be consistently higher in someone with anxiety. The same can be true for adrenaline.
This constant state of alert isn’t good for your body. You might not sleep well, for example, which prevents you from recovering from workouts properly. Plus, losing sleep can make you even more anxious.
Anxiety can make you eat more or less than you should (it affects everyone a little differently). Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which interferes with things like muscle growth and regeneration of tissues like tendons and ligaments. So, constant anxiety could slow progress in the gym and potentially increase your risk for injury.
The solution for stress differs for everyone, but exercise can help. Other things to look into include meditation, spending time in nature, or getting a massage/acupuncture treatment. Use this stress awareness month to take time to check in with yourself and assess your stress levels!