I am writing this post as much for myself as I am for everyone else who lives a life of stress. Stress affects everyone differently…so much so that you might not even know how much it’s effecting your health and your ability to function like a quality human.
My mom and my fiancé would tell you that I am one of THE most stressed out people of all time. Even my elementary school teachers warned my parents that I was too high stress – that a child should not worry so much about school, sports, sleeping in too long, not sleeping enough, winning everything, my body, etc.
In my adult life things have only elevated to stress caused by work, school, money, relationships, working out, missing workouts, working out too much, the possibility of getting trapped in an underwater cave, an aging uterus, and most of all….having to wear a skirted bathing suit like some women that gave up on life 🙁
I know what you are thinking. Guuurlll, those are some first world problems and you aint be stressin’.
I realize this. I can rationally see that I have no ‘real’ reason to stress, however; on a Sunday, just knowing that I have to purchase groceries, meal prep, do laundry, walk my dog and get a good night’s sleep can send me over the edge. No joke, five items on a to do list may or may not send me into a tailspin. #wtfiswrongwithme
Mental – The brain is the central organ of the stress response and determines what is stressful, as well as the behavioral and physiological responses to potential and actual stressors. Mental stress causes scattered thinking, difficulty learning, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and lack of focus. Feeling a little A.D.D lately? These are all signs that you are too stressed.
Physical – Physically, stress effects the nervous system and hormones. “The effects include elevated evening cortisol, insulin and blood glucose, elevated blood pressure, reduced parasympathetic activity and elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines, as well as the gut hormone, ghrelin, which increases appetite. Hunger for comfort foods and increased caloric intake are one result, along with depressed mood and cognitive impairment,” (Dallman, 2003;McEwen, 2006).
Emotional – Emotional stress manifests itself differently for different people. Some people get angry, hostile, frustrated and short tempered. Others get sad, emotional and depressed. Emotional stress can even attribute to chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease.
According to research, how an individual deals with stress is very much determined by their environment. Early life experiences perhaps carry an even greater weight in terms of how an individual reacts to new and stressful situations. There are a few key styles for how people may deal with stress.
High strung stress case – Due to an excessive production of cortisol you are tired but wired. The high strung stress case is always on the move, wakes up wired and has difficulty winding down at night, shutting the brain off and staying asleep. Because of this, the high strung stress case never feels fully rested and often turns to alcohol at night to wind down.
Sleepy stress case – You just.can’t.function. (this is me). You need stimulants to get you through the day because without them, you just might collapse. You crave sugar or carbohydrates as a means to get by and you nod off during afternoon meetings. When you hit the pillow at night that is the end of days…out like a light.
Combo stress case – You wake wake up tired and need coffee to get you going, but by the end the of the day you are wired and need alcohol to turn down. You have difficulty falling asleep and difficulty waking!
Coping with Stress
Ok, I am going to cut the bullshit tactics for reducing stress. It’s pretty obvious that to reduce stress in our lives we have to eliminate stressors, meditate, breath and take time to relax. BUT, if it were that easy to reduce stressors we wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. SO, we need to learn to become more resilient to stress. How we do this is based a little bit on our stress style?
High strung stress case – Caffeine, sugar and stimulants are the enemy. Due to your already high strung nature and elevated cortisol, you are on a natural high. Adding fuel to this fire will only amp you up more, leading to an eventual crash and burn (adrenal fatigue). For you, CARBS at dinner are key. This will help release seratonin to calm you down. Try melatonin and magnesium supplements to reduce restlessness at night and make sure to take time to wind down, unplug electronics and avoid stimulants.
Sleepy stress case – A little bit of caffeine in the morning to help you get going is ok, however, avoid carbs in the morning at all costs. The sleepy stress case must start the day with a high protein, high fat diet for adequate energy. Morning exercise is also recommended to wake you up and get the blood pumping. Getting enough rest is key for the sleepy stress case because you are exhausted, your hormones are wack and without rest you won’t be able to function.
Combo stress case – A little caffeine in the morning won’t kill you, but it’s a slippery slope. Due to your difficulty winding down in the evenings, a dinner containing carbohydrates to increase seratonin and gabba will be beneficial…especially if you workout in the evening and have depleted glycogen stores. Supplementing with 5HTP and magnesium will be helpful for evening restlessness and mood. Like the high strung stressor, unplug before bed and minimize distractions.
The effects of stress on the body are severe and if you don’t take care of yourself the long term affects may be detrimental. For athletes, overtraining is a big one. The allostatic overload caused by over training, minimal rest, muscle breakdown, and lack of sleep…combined with mental and emotional stress can lead to chronic disease and degeneration. Work at becoming more resilient to stress with some of these tips and hopefully the long term affect will be beneficial to your overall health and performance!