Stress: Good, Bad, Indifferent


The holidays are quickly approaching, and should be a welcomed, happy time. But with more hectic schedules and traveling plans, we often get pulled out of our daily routines. Not always a bad thing…but we need to have a good approach so that we don’t spiral out of control with our “to-do’s” and put our health on the back-burner.

“How often should I workout? How hard should I push myself? How often can I/should I have a “cheat” meal? If I ate x,y, and z…is it ok if I put this or that condiment on it for flavor? I missed my workouts on Monday and Tuesday because I was cramming for an exam and slamming Red Bulls for two days, do you think it would be a good idea to workout for 3 hours as hard as I can to make-up for that?”

These are sample questions that many folks have, and the answer isn’t always straight-forward (aside from maybe…don’t only consume Red Bull for 2 days). There are several variables that can affect the answers for different individuals. But never-mind the detailed, individual answers to those questions right now. What about the self-induced stress that may be accumulating each week, over something as little as “everything I ate this week was clean, but I put Sriracha on my chicken breast….and that has sugar in it.”

Yes, minimizing sugar is an important part of a responsible, healthy diet. However, if you are overworked and under-recovered (in life, not just the gym) and you add extra stress to your mind/body about every little thing…you may be doing yourself a disservice.

Below is a snippet from an article the American Psychological Association posted about stress: revised 2013

“When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.

Stress can make existing problems worse. In one study, for example, about half the participants saw improvements in chronic headaches after learning how to stop the stress-producing habit of “catastrophizing,” or constantly thinking negative thoughts about their pain. Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain — high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude — is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example. Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you’re sick, stress can also make it harder to recover. One analysis of past studies, for instance, suggests that cardiac patients with so-called “Type D” personalities — characterized by chronic distress — face higher risks of bad outcomes. “

Research shows that activities like yoga, as well as breathing and other relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning. The ‘ole adage “sick and tired of being sick and tired” seems to ring a bell regarding the above. If you stress your mind worrying about too many little things, for an extended period of time, then chances are you will adversely affect your health and quality of life. Your brain won’t be firing on all cylinders, thus you will not sleep well, or produce the needed amount of certain hormones that help keep you functioning above the mere survival status. Coincedently, those same folks that seem to always stress, then in turn will naturally begin to stress about how their health is declining, turning circles…chasing their own tail.

We need to have a plan, to act as our guide. But if things don’t go perfectly, because life just happened, let it go! Take a step back…breathe…reassess…refocus….recommit. Dont just say “screw it” and ride the trainwreck all the way to Howthehelldidigetheresville. Develop a new plan of attack or tweak the current plan a bit and give it a shot.

If you don’t have some sort of routine to unplug and unwind, I suggest now as the perfect time to contemplate adding some simple de-stressing strategies to your life. There are many ways to do this, and the APA offers a few.

-Coach Tim