Managing Stress*

Monday, 9 February 2015, By Emily Schofield

Acute and chronic stress affects many individuals to varying degrees. It is not just the dramatic stressful events that take a toll on the body over time, contributing are the health damaging behaviours associated with the feeling of being 'stressed out'. Being stressed can accompany a rise in behaviours such as comfort eating, inability to sleep, feeling anxious or depressed, smoking or drinking alcohol excessively and neglecting to engage in physical exercise.

As mammals, the fight or flight response is hardwired into us as a physiological response to stress. Physical changes evoked by the fight or flight response include - elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, slowed digestion, decreased immune system, and increased release of cortisol (cortisol is a stress hormone that is closely related to fat storage around the midsection).  For this reason people who are chronically stressed may not be able to lose fat even if they are doing everything right training and diet wise.

The fight or flight response is intended to prepare the body in response to a harmful event, attack or threat to survival, however, everyday acute stressors provoking such a response puts significant stress on the body.  For individuals who experience stress as a part of everyday life, chronic elevation of these mediators eg chronically increased heart rate and blood pressure produce wear and tear on the cardiovascular system which over time can result in subsequent health issues.

Stress can be managed effectively through various different means. Some ideas for managing your stress include -

Strength training - Strength training stimulates the body's anti stress system, it also builds muscle, gives you more energy, and makes you feel good.

Reduce alcohol - Alcohol is not a sleep aid, it reduces the quality of your sleep. Less sleep = higher cortisol = more stress on body. Alcohol may help healthy people fall asleep more quickly, however it reduces Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep causing disruption to sleep.

Improve sleep quality and quantity - Get an early night. Staying up late stimulates the release of stress hormones which trigger the fight or flight response in the body. Take magnesium to regulate serotonin levels and improve quality of sleep.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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