This subject has been the topic of many of my blog posts, but it just can’t be overstated. There are two many stressors in life: work, relationship problems, sometimes food, working out, even the environment, school, and made-up scenarios in our heads. Sometimes these can work for our favor, but more often than not they pile together and become chronic stress. What you do to combat that stress might be one of the most beneficial health choices you can make.
Stress has many faces.
Sometimes, we even fail to identify what stress is. “I had a terrible day at work, I need to go to the gym to blow off some steam”. If you haven’t said that before, I am sure you’ve heard it from somebody. Maybe you had to rush lunch that day and had a vending-machine meal. After the gym you go home and watch your team lose a close game. You go to sleep worrying if tomorrow work will suck as bad as today. In this simple example, this person managed to spend an entire day in their sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). They faced biological, physical, emotional and psychological stress.
Unlike most people believe, it is not during stress that our bodies change and adapt. But it rather happens when we are in our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Not only does that allow you to recover and repair from stress, but it also helps regulate other body functions. Chronic stress can mess up hormones, digestion, cognitive function and other important metabolic actions. Therefore, taking time off your day to shift into parasympathetic state should be a priority for most.
Like its counterbalance, the activities that get you into parasympathetic state should be individualized. What works for somebody might not work for you. Ultimately you have to find something you enjoy doing and something that is sustainable for your lifestyle. I’ve covered the psychological benefits of being in a restful state in a previous blog, just know that the benefits of these activities go far beyond recovering from stress.
Here are a few option that can greatly impact your health:
- A nice, warm bath with Epsom salts.
- A cold shower, maybe following that warm bath (it will push you to a sympathetic state at first, but learning to control it and switching back to parasympathetic is a very important skill to have).
- Meditation. Download an app, go sit outside, do whatever it takes to be able to sit still with yourself for a few minutes.
- Eat without worrying about time. Breathe before you eat, chew up to 40 times per bite, put your fork down in between bites. It’s called rest and digest for a reason.
- Nap. It can give you a mental and physical break during the most stressful part of your day.
- Yoga. Even though it is a form of exercise, its stillness, mind-body connection and spirituality can act as a switch for parasympathetic state.
- Lastly, slow down. Get into that right lane and let people pass you. As you walk, slow down and notice the houses, the trees, the people. This is the easiest and most sustainable way to turn off your fight or flight response.
At Celebration CrossFit we are in the business of changing lives. What good does an exercise routine do if nothing else is working properly? Come chat with one of your coaches and let us figure out how we can help you become the better version of yourself!
by Coach Matt