Stress: The good, the bad, and best ways to handle it.
A little thing called stress, and what we can do to both recover from the helpful, positive type of stress that makes us stronger, faster, and sharper.. and mitigate the negative stress that we all experience with anxious moments, deadlines, poor sleep, etc.
You're reading this because you are part of the Body Architects community, more accurately part of our family. You are making a big investment of time, money, and resources to better your health and fitness. Most of us in the BA family dont have any trouble putting in the physical work, it’s all the rest of the intangibles outside the gym we sometimes struggle with.
Let’s try and tackle one of the most prominent (and often ignored) issues people have that is disrupting their mission to improve themselves. Stress. We are all constantly bombarded with stress from every facet of life.
Nutritional Stress - Food allergies or nutritional deficiencies
Mental Stress - Anxiety or worry
Spiritual Stress - Troubled relationships (at home or in the workplace)
Emotional Stress - Loneliness, anger, guilt, or sadness
Physical Stress - Sleep deprivation or a desk bound workspace
Chemical Stress - Drugs, alcohol, excessive caffeine, household cleaners, preservatives, pesticides
This is life. A rollercoaster of actions and reactions your mind and body manage every minute of every day. What I want to do, is identify a few proven, actionable things you can do to aid you in the management of stress. Because hey, they aren't wrong when they say stress kills..
You can literally compound all the above mentioned stresses by over reaching / over training in your weekly fitness plan. Excessive exercise often leads to elevated cortisol levels and if chronic, HPA axis dysfunction. This is quite common with the A-type hard charging individuals who have a hard time down regulating at any part of the day. They must always be on the move, and use sweat sessions as a kind of therapy or distraction from self imposed deadlines and stressors. The take-away: Check with your coach to be sure you are implementing the most effective dose of exercise each week.
Sleep. This is the foundation, and in my experience sleep deprivation is one of the most common causes of one's lack of ability to reduce and recover from stress. Evaluate your total number of sleep cycles per week (sleep cycles are approx 90 min, and if you're getting the bare minimum of 7.5 hours sleep a night, count that as 5 sleep cycles). If you hit 35 cycles/week, you're doing well. I am fairly fanatical when it comes to protecting my sleep time. Mostly due to the fact I have been entrenched in the science surrounding sleep hygiene and its effect on the brain and longevity. The only time your body fully recovers neurons and recovers a beaten down nervous system is when you are asleep. If your nervous system isn't recovering, you're chronically stressed.
Take control of whole body inflammation. I supplement proven inflammation reducing compounds as part of my daily strategy for stress and inflammation control. One of the most common, and researched is curcumin. There are many ways to get your dose, but my preferred method these days is in my Vahdam superfood tea every afternoon. This tea is not only centered around curcumin, but offers blends with other powerful adaptogenic superfoods like ashwagandha, ginger or moringa. Two other of my favorite adaptogens specific to stress reduction, recovery, and thus performance, are reishi and cordyceps, both have shown to have some real impact.
Breathe. Yes, it can be just that simple. Chronic stress leading to HPA axis dysfunction can be recognized by fatigue and brain fog, both can be reduced with various breathing techniques. For those of you that take the time to read our newsletter, I had mentioned a few techniques there, namely box breathing and a form of Kundalini Yoga Breathing called Breath of Fire. There is no one perfect fit for breathwork, it’s individual, take a moment each day and try a few different techniques. They key words there are TAKE A MOMENT.
There is a reason Body Architects has a tag line of “Optimizing Human Performance”. It’s our mission to help empower each and every one of you to move the needle towards a fulfilled, happy, healthy, long, and enriched life. Whatever that means to you. Enjoy the journey. Take the time to breathe in the biosphere, it will help you perform better in all areas of your life.