What exactly is stress? According to the dictionary, stress is, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” To me, that means stress is something that makes a person feel uneasy and very overwhelmed.
When a person is overwhelmed, they tend to neglect important areas of their lives such as their health. When you are feeling stressed, you need to make sure that you are still taking good care of your body! Sometimes it can seem like work or social situations are more important than eating well or getting enough sleep, but that is not the case. You have to be able to complete your everyday activities, and your body has to function at its best in order for those things to be accomplished. You need to be able to feel good enough to deal with the issues that may be causing you the stress in the first place.
Exercise is technically a form of “stress” also. Improper physical training can cause this same stress response. A few specific things happen to your body when you are stressed. Your body is releasing stress hormones to prepare for the “fight or flight” reaction that the stress is demanding. When we are releasing these hormones too much, a whole host of problems can occur over time. One classic example is that stress responses can cause your immune system to become weaker, which makes you vulnerable to get ill. Can you imagine how much better you might feel if you didn’t always feel stressed about life? We MUST learn to reduce and manage our stress in order to be healthy.
When thinking about reducing stress, remember the things that you CAN control. You cannot control the stresses that often come from the expectations of other people, the weather, or many other things in life! However, you CAN control the main areas of your health. A few simple ways to begin to reduce stress are: exercising properly, drinking more water, eating healthier, and getting more sleep. Is your exercise plan appropriately challenging you, but allowing for proper rest and recovery? Are you drinking half of your body weight in water in ounces every day? Are you getting adequate (at least 7-8 hours) sleep each night? These are all factors that you CAN definitely control! These are the “no-brainers”. Eating healthier seems like a harder discipline to some, but it is actually quite easy to eat foods that reduce stress because the healthy foods are the simple foods. Carrots, avocados, and nuts/seeds are just 3 of the many foods that actually help reduce the negative effects of stress.
Lou Holtz, longtime successful football coach, commented about stress, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” So carry your stress load with your “best self”…the one that is healthy, strong and is enjoying life.