“Stress is the number one killer of people worldwide. There is nothing more damaging to your body, your mind, and your emotions, than stress.” –Paul Chek
Stress can fall into three different categories and it might be the primary reason you are not achieving the health and fitness results you desire.
The 3 categories of stress:
- Physical examples include physical pain, use of medicines and/or drugs, and current or unresolved injuries.
- Emotional examples include hormonal imbalances, mood problems, energy highs and lows.
- Mental examples include toxic relationships with people, spiritual problems*
*many consider spirituality-related stressors to be a separate category
All categories of stress affect your body. They all add up together and can form quite a lot of unhealthy tension within. Your boss, your significant other, your sick pet or child, your workload…all of these add to your stress and they all negatively affect your health.
Physiologically speaking, the cell does not care about the source of your stress. Stress of a divorce, stress of drug use, and stress of an injury all affect your body at the cellular level the same. Each stressor produces a response in the body that is biochemically identical.
When the body has too much stress it can lead to chronic fatigue, disease, and even death.
Not all stress is bad. Stress is a natural physiological function that helps us to grow and be stronger. If we were to sit on a couch all day and watch TV we might have very little stress but eventually our body would become weak and we would deteriorate into a very unhealthy being.
But too much stress can also lead to poor health. And because all stress is equal at the cellular level, when you do not fix the stresses in your work and your relationships, adding physical stresses could cause your body to breakdown from too much stress.
To be fully healthy we need to balance our life in a state of homeostasis.
Are You Imbalanced?
Every individual has to balance his or her own life to live in a homeostatic state. For most people, exercise will help with this balance. However, for some people it could potentially be adding to an imbalance.
Symptoms of Stress and Imbalance
- Behavioral Symptoms: sleeping too much or not enough, eating too much or not enough, isolating yourself from others, drug and alcohol use
- Emotional Symptoms: mood swings, irritability, unable to relax, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness
- Cognitive Symptoms: unable to concentrate, anxiousness, worry, poor judgement, memory problems
- Physical Symptoms: pain, sickness, digestive problems, low libido
If you are showing these symptoms then there is a good chance you are in a state of imbalance.
Manage Your Stress Now:
Some scientists use pictures like this to determine physiological stress levels. People with high amounts of stress will see movement in the picture and people with low stress levels will see a still picture.
Take a look at the stressors in your life and analyze what can you do to limit the amount of stress they add to your being.
How Can I Better Balance My Life?
First we need to look at what we can control:
- Avoid unnecessary stress. Many of us can improve our life today by simply getting rid of certain areas of our life that are causing stress. If it is possible to avoid the stressor, then eliminate it from your life. Not all stress can be avoided, but by avoiding people and situations that produce stress, and by learning how to distinguish between the things in life you must do from the things in life you feel you should do; you can eliminate many of your daily stressors.
- Assertion. If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Be assertive and deal with problems. Do NOT let problems build up or fester. And be willing to compromise and problem-solve a way to peacefully resolve the conflicts in your life.
- Accept the things you have no control over. You can only worry about the things that you can change. And always look at the big picture—in the scope of your life does this stressor really matter? There will always be stressors in life that you can’t fix or eliminate. Accepting these stressors will help you to balance your life.
Next we need to improve our physical health to better manage our stressors.
- Activities like yoga, meditation, prayer, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response. By setting aside a time in our day to relax, we counterbalance the stresses in our life.
- Physical activity can help minimize the negative effects of stress.
- A combination of meditation and exercise works wonders. A study at Rutgers University showed that individuals suffering from depression who practiced meditation for 30 minutes followed by aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, acquired new cognitive skills that helped them process information and reduce the overwhelming recollection of memories from the past.
- Eating a nutrient rich diet can minimize the negative effects of stress. Also, toxins such as sugar, alcohol, and most preservatives will increase your body’s stress levels.
- High quality sleep of 8-9 hours a night will limit the negative effects of too much stress. When sleeping your body is rebuilding itself for the next day. During quality sleep, you return to homeostasis.
- Create a morning routine. Seriously, this will help you life in so many ways — I highly recommend you read this.