Stress is one of the most common problems amongst adults, used as a reaction to factors from work to home life. Defined as “mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”, stress can affect concentration, physical and mental health, if not taken care of properly. Trying different methods to find the best way to cope is essential and differs depending on the person, yet is best managed when dealt with front-on. Ultimate Performance personal trainer Matthew Leeb shares a few tips on how to manage and reduce stress for healthier, happier wellbeing.
How it works
No matter what physical or emotional stress you subject yourself to, your body will respond the same way to stress. The adrenal cortex increases cortisol secretion and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) will increase. Repeated or chronic stress leads to high levels of circulating cortisol in your body which is linked to numerous physiological consequences including chronic fatigue, immune suppression, and fat storage. Therefore, it’s important to balance acute stressors (weight training, HIIT, etc.) with recovery inducing activities (sleeping, low-intensity exercise, etc.) whilst managing chronic stressors (work, home, relationships, etc.).
Identify what is causing your stress
Once you have identified your triggers, start thinking about strategies for dealing with them. Start addressing the stressors within your control. For example, if stress prevents you from falling asleep, a potential solution is to turn off your phone and electronics an hour before bed to let your mind wind down. For the stressors that are outside of your control, think about how you will react to those situations. Maintaining a positive attitude, utilising breathing techniques, and seeking help from family and friends will help manage and mitigate the impact of stressful circumstances.
Organize your schedule a week in advance
Schedule everything—from your meals, your exercise, any work and home priorities, and personal time for relaxation. Having a structure or routine to your day will help prevent last-minute rushing and ground you on a firm foundation from how to respond to new situations that crop up.
Prioritize your health and wellbeing
It is too often the case that people neglect their health until there is a problem. A preventative approach is much better than a reactive one and could end up costing you a lot less in the long run. Prioritise your health now by proactively engaging in exercise and improving your nutritional awareness. A healthy body and mind are your greatest weapons against stress, so be sure to block out personal time in your schedule for self-care. On a daily basis, this may include setting aside time to workout, reading a book, or interacting with family members or pets. Several more indulgent ideas include getting a massage, taking up a hobby, and booking a wellness retreat.
Eat a balanced diet and consider select supplements
Many of the physiological consequences of stress can be mitigated through proper nutrition. Choosing foods that are low in calories and nutrient-dense can enable your body to appropriately manage insulin throughout the day and combat high levels of cortisol. Furthermore, supplementation with fish oil and magnesium have both been shown to improve mood and improve anti-anxiety effects. Additionally, a group of herbs referred to as ‘adaptogens’ are believed to help the body adapt to stress and function more normally in response—these include Rhodiola, ashwagandha, and ginseng. Always consult your doctor before taking herbal supplements and purchase only from reputable sources.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude
Try utilising applications like Calm or Headspace for guided assistance with meditation, self-awareness, and relaxation to help melt stress away. It is also helpful to develop your sense of gratitude for the blessings around you by putting your situation into perspective. Write down five things you are thankful for in order to reinvigorate positivity and remind yourself of the bigger picture.
For more information on meeting your weight and fitness goals or to learn more about Ultimate Performance, check out upfitness.com.hk.