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Stress & Fitness
Coming to terms with stress
Stress affects the normal condition of the mind. It also affects the nervous system leading to internal disorders like high blood pressure, headaches, migraines, loss of appetite, phobias, narcolepsy, and many more. Deep depression is a severe cause of stress which may lead a person to drugs. Stress is when you are worried about getting laid off your job, or worried about having enough money to pay your bills, or worried about your mother when the doctor says she may need an operation. In fact, to most of us, stress is synonymous with worry. If it is something that makes you worry, then it is stress.

Acute stress is a reaction to immediate threat. This threat may possibly be a situation that is experienced even subconsciously or falsely as dangerous. Short term stress includes traffic, noise pollution, isolation, infection and hunger. On the other hand chronic stress has a greater effect on the human mind. Psychological pressures such as relationship problems, loneliness, or financial worries may lead to long term or chronic stress

Affect of Stress on Our Body
Stress Affects when the brain is affected by stress, a part of the brain called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) system releases certain neurotransmitters called catecholamines. The HPA system also triggers the production of the primary stress hormone.

Heart and lungs
Due to stress the heart rate and the blood pressure increases. This lead to rapid breathing and the lungs take in more oxygen. The blood flow may increase from 300 % to 400% priming the muscle, lungs and the brain for added demands.

Stress causes dryness of the mouth which causes difficulty in talking.

Stress Stress
Stress causes metabolic disorders by closing down the digestive activity which leads to loss of appetite.

Psychological effects
Stress deteriorates a healthy body. Relationships are always threatened and there is always a danger that chronic stress may develop into a serious problem. Suicide, accidents and alcoholism are usually followed by stress.

Factors that Trigger Stress
The vast hormonal changes of puberty can cause severe stress. A person’s body actually changes shape, sexual organs begin to function and new hormones are released in large quantities.

Pre–Menstrual Syndrome
Once a woman passes puberty, her body is designed to function best in the presence of female hormones. For women past puberty, a lack of female hormones is a major stress on the body. Once a month, just prior to menstruation, a woman’s hormone levels drop sharply. In many women, the stress of sharply falling hormones is enough to create a temporary overstress. This temporary overstress is popularly known as Pre–Menstrual Syndrome (PMS).

Following a pregnancy, hormone levels change dramatically. After a normal childbirth, or a miscarriage, some women may be thrown into overstress by loss of the hormones of pregnancy.

There is another time in a woman’s life when hormone levels decline. This is the menopause. The decline in hormones during menopause is slow and steady. Nevertheless, this menopausal decline causes enough stress on the body to produce overstress in many women.

Stress Management
The following coping strategies can really start to help you reduce the effects of any negative stress in your life. Be aware of your own warning signs. These could be a sudden feeling of anxiety, extreme tiredness, feeling very tearful, catching every cough and cold, feeling run down. At times of negative stress we often fall into the trap of not eating properly, smoking more or turning to alcohol as a supposedly helpful crutch.

Here are some positive methods to handle stress
Try and eat a balanced diet. Eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole meal, bread, jacket potatoes etc) rather than refined (that packet of sugary biscuits!). This can really help with those mood swings. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and keep sugar and salt intake to a minimum. This can help to support your immune system in its fight against colds, flu and other ailments you so often get when run down. Drink plenty of water, it will help you rehydrate your body, and only drink alcohol in moderation. Try and keep caffeine consumption to the minimum.

Try not to turn to nicotine or any other self prescribed drugs.
Do not feel guilty about including a period of relaxation every day. We all need to turn off from time to time. Do something you enjoy which fits into your life. This could, for example, be reading, listening to music, doing yoga or meditating, enjoying a warm bath with perhaps some aromatherapy oils added to it. It does not have to take long–or be considered a luxury or time wasting. It is a vital part of life. Make sure exercise is a part of life. Do exercise which is suitable for you. Ask the doctor if you have doubts.

Do you often find yourself saying “Yes” when in fact you mean “No”? Are you always late for things? Do you get frustrated knowing you could have done a better job if you had organized your time better? Learn how to be more assertive and manage your time properly. Many of us waste so much time–often making excuses for things we have not done! There are some excellent courses available as well as books on both these subjects.

Consider attending a stress management training course. You do not have to be stressed to attend one of these. It is far better to know fully what to do prior to experiencing negative stress than during! There are times when we all need the help and confidential support of other people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. It can be so helpful. If you wish to be put in contact with a local stress councilor / therapist we can put you in.

Tips for Relieving Stress
Laugh More
Laughter is one of the most effective ways to manage stress. Laughter can help you boost your immune system. This means that you will be less prone to colds and flu and, if you do get sick, you will get better that much faster.

Be Flexible
The way you typically see the world and respond to events and people in it is called your personality. A sure–fire way to manage stress is to experiment with different parts of your personality. Be flexible. You don’t always have to be passive or controlling. Do whatever the situation demands, not what your habit or personality dictates. Being more flexible in your personality helps you manage stress by allowing you to try different ways of talking to people and dealing with events rather than acting out of habit or doing what makes you feel safe.

When we become stressed, our bodies start to breath more rapidly and our heart rate increases. However, we also breathe more shallowly so there isn’t a very efficient and healthy exchange between getting fresh oxygen in and getting waste gases out. Poor breathing contributes in this way to anxiety and fatigue, and makes stressors harder to cope with. Relaxed breathing is an effective way to manage stress. Be aware of your breathing. You can also take a few deep, relaxing breaths while in a washroom cubicle, waiting at a traffic light, waiting for a meeting to begin, etc.

Say “No”
Stress management is sometimes a matter of reducing the demands that are placed upon you. However, many of these demands come from saying “Yes” to too many things. Think about the things that you would like to do and separate these from the things that you have to do and begin to say “No” to some of the expectations other people place upon you if they aren’t “Have to’s”. You are the best judge. Do what takes care of you, your career, your family, and your relationships. Everything else you agree to is a bonus and should only be considered if you have time and energy.

Make mistakes, and live with them
Believe it or not, this is good advice. Being perfect at everything you do is very taxing and stressful. You don’t have to be the best at everything. Sometimes people who set high standards for themselves get caught in a perfection trap. If they succeed at meeting their personal standards, they only set their standards higher the next time round. So they never feel that they have done a good job. Be a little less hard on yourself, let yourself make some mistakes if they aren’t critical. Set reasonable goals and strive to do your best. Learn from failure but don’t beat yourself over the head when you make a mistake. Be a bit easier on yourself. Can you manage that? Well, try.

Play with a pet
There is a lot of wisdom in this tip. First of all, playing with a pet can distract you from your worries. So rather than ruminate and feel stressed, focus your thoughts on your pet and thereby begin to feel better. Second, there is a real physical benefit from playing with pets. It can leave you feeling happier and healthier. Finally, playing with your pet may offer you a chance to get active.

A sure way to reduce stress is to do less and re–evaluate your commitments. Is it important for you to have a luxury car and large roof over your head? If it is, then you are going to have to work long hours and worry about making ends meet. Is it important that you belong to the bowling league, bridge club, work full–time, raise five children, and coach the swimming team? If so, why? (think carefully about your answer.) Choose one or two activities that you truly enjoy and reevaluate your commitment to the others. When you reduce the demands on your time, you will have more leisure time and, hence, less stress.

Get Active
Regular aerobic exercise (repetitive movement of large muscle groups as in walking, jogging, swimming) is a healthy and effective way to manage stress. In addition to improving your physical well–being, it can have a positive effect on your mood and your body’s immune system.

The greatest benefits of exercise occur when your heart beats to within 50 to 75% of its maximum. (the maximum heart rate for men is 220 beats/minute minus their age, for women the maximum is 200 beats/minute minus their age). These benefits occur if the activity is sustained for a total of 30 minutes in one day (e.g., three walks of 10 minutes each), three to four days a week. A word about exercise: more is not necessarily better. Too vigorous a workout may suppress your body’s immune functioning. This isn’t an issue for most of us, however, just getting enough exercise is challenge enough.

Eat well
Stress drains your body of energy. Consequently, you need to ensure that you nourish your body with the nutrients it needs to combat stress, and limit your intake of foods that aggravate stress. This means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy products, and meat if you like. If you are concerned about eating a balanced meal despite your efforts, consider taking nutritional supplements.

Face your difficulties
Don’t run away from difficulties because you feel it easier than facing them. It is better to risk failure and confront your problems. If you don’t, nothing ever gets resolved and the tension may be more than you can bear. So face difficulties as they arise. Before you begin your workday reflect on unfinished business and plan on how you will resolve it. Give yourself positive coping messages throughout the day (e.g. “This is going to be tough but I can handle it"), not negative ones (e.g. “oh no, I can’t bear the thought of facing this terrible day”.).

Talk to Others
One of the best ways to manage stress is to share your feelings with others. So it’s a very good thing for a lot of reasons to develop supportive relationships in your life. Find a friend or someone who you feel comfortable sharing with, and tell them about your day. Like laughter, talking to other people and just “Getting it off your chest” can help improve your body’s physical health. And you don’t have to have a solution, either. Simply talking to others without getting any solutions to your problem, can help you feel better. And, who knows, you may learn another way of looking at your stressful situation that is healthier for you or you may find a good way to articulate what you are struggling with. This, alone, can reduce your stress.