Thousands of years ago, stress was something our ancestors dealt with constantly, just like we do today.
However, the stress we deal with today is a very different type of stress compared to the stress our ancestors had to deal with.
You see, in the hunter-gatherer days of human evolution, there was only one type of stress – and it involved life or death.
Stress in those days may have come from evading a predator or enduring a twenty-day famine.
Human life in the hunter-gatherer days was far different than it is today, and the stresses our ancestors had to deal with were very simple.
Now days, your energy and attention are pulled in more directions than you can possibly deal with at one time, and most of the stress you deal with day to day isn’t life or death.
Your boss needs you, your smartphone goes off every few minutes, be it a text message or an app notification; you have bills, appointments, deadlines etc etc…
Most of us are used to dealing with life’s stressors daily, and most of us are so beaten, bruised, and burdened by stress that we’ve come to accept it as a normal part of life, something that we just live with.
After all, stress is abstract so it can’t be bad for you, right?
Understand: stress is a concrete condition that if poorly managed and left unchecked, makes your body age far faster and kills your life contentment and happiness.
Stress is not like a pair of shoes, where one size fits all. Either you’re stressed out or you’re not.
Modern stress comes in many different sizes, shapes, and levels of intensity.
Due to differing genetics and ethnic backgrounds, some people are more prone to worry than others, and some people are better quipped to deal with both small and large circumstances and life events that lead to stress.
Learning how to manage your stress and keep it low is vital to your short and long-term health and wellness.
The danger with stress is that it increases as we age, and it becomes a major driver of health problems.
Chronic stress is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, cancer, and disabling accidents.
Stress impacts your immune system, affects every cell in your body, and alters the variability of your heart, which can lead to arrhythmias and fatal heart problems.
Most of the stress we deal with is considered ongoing, low-level stress.
Work, family, and interacting with others all generate low-level stress, no matter your gender, age, or what you do for a living.
Expecting to eliminate stress completely is very unrealistic, unreasonable, and even unhealthy. As you’ll find out—your ability to deal with stress can make you stronger.
The other type of stress comes from nagging or unfinished tasks.
One of the most persistent forms of stress comes in the form of something that chips and chisels at you piece by piece until you can’t take it anymore.
This would be a cluttered closet, cracked bathroom tiles that have been staring at you for years, or weekly paperwork that eats away at you every Friday, etc.
These nagging or unfinished tasks are much more destructive and harmful to your health than low-level stress that comes from being alive.
Finally, there is stress that occurs when you go through a major life event such as a divorce, moving to another city, a job change, a death in the family, bankruptcy, or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
This type of stress is not the same level as the stress you feel from a dead cell phone battery or from a sudden splash of water from a puddle you’ve accidentally stepped on which stains your new gym kicks.
Get this; statistics show that experiencing three major life events in a single year will make your body feel and act as if it’s thirty years older in the following year.
This is eye-opening, which makes it especially important to develop sound coping strategies and support systems to carry you through when times are tough.
As you may know, I’m a huge advocate of a simple lifestyle, filled with natural foods that come from mother-earth.
Getting rid of processed foods and added sugar will work wonders to reduce the amount and intensity of stress.
Your adrenal glands will operate smoothly with a natural, whole-foods based diet and your blood sugar will remain in-check, which is vital to living stress free and being happy.
There are two different types of stressors affect you on different levels.
The first kind of stress (low-level stress) wears you down and fatigues you but is not harmful to your health. Think doing a set of squats to failure or running up and down a set of stairs for 30 minutes.
The last two kinds of stress outlined above are the most harmful and dangerous.
Chronic stress sucks.
If you don’t do everything you can to reduce it, it will literally suck the life out of you, little by little.
Being chronically stressed out is a major threat to your fitness, health and longevity.
The good news is that stress is easy to beat.
Follow these 6 steps…
Manage Your Anger: It’s no secret that anger does not help anyone.
Anger has been shown to lead to a higher incidence of heart disease and other health problems.
Part of the problem is that most people are misinformed about the best way to handle their anger.
While you may think that attacking a punching bag helps you release pent-up aggression and stress, the opposite is true.
Kicking the crap out of a punching bag teaches you to develop a behavior pattern where you punch something every time you’re mad.
You can’t nor should you hold down stress until it eats away at you like ants on crumbs.
What you need to do instead is use behavioral and mental techniques that have been proven to reduce anger and anxiety—including chronic heart problems that are associated with them.
Take up meditation, avoid stressful people and environments and stop hanging around people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
Hitting the gym hard is another major channel through which you can release pent up anger.
Don’t overdo Caffeine – Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks and has positive effects on your health by increasing your energy levels and productivity; unfortunately, it’s a double edged sword as it can also have negative effects on your health by contributing to and amplifying your stress levels.
You see, when you drink caffeine, your body starts pumping out the fight-or-flight hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine, which increases your heart rate and temporarily raises your blood pressure.
These side-effects of caffeine make it more difficult to stay calm when a stress-triggering event or situation occurs, which further amplifies the stressed-out feeling.
To give you an example, excessive caffeine consumption would be having a large cup of coffee in the morning, then having an energy drink in the afternoon or evening before your workout.
While everyone has different levels of tolerance for caffeine, you should not have to rely on caffeinated beverages to keep you going throughout the day.
I can’t stress this enough, but staying away from processed foods and excessive sugar will keep your energy levels even and smooth throughout the day.
Ultimately, the foods you eat (and stay away from) play the biggest role in your energy levels, and caffeinated beverages should only be consumed on top of a wholesome, nutrient-dense diet, not as a replacement for real food.
Go Outside – Being outdoors, especially when it’s sunny, is a fail-proof stress-reduction strategy.
Sunshine provides your body with natural vitamin D, which is essential for your health and well-being.
The next time you feel very stressed out or overwhelmed by your routine, take a thirty-minute walk outside, preferably in a park, and take deep breaths as you’re walking.
Try not to listen to music and don’t use your cell phone while walking, but rather just focus on the scenery around you and maintain a brisk pace.
Pay attention to the nature around you, and take your mind off whatever is stressing you out.
You’ll notice an instant reduction in stress and you’ll feel focused, calmer, and clearer minded.
Drinking pure, fresh water while you’re out walking or before your walk will contribute to relaxation as water nourishes your brain cells and muscles and is essential for every bodily function.
Go with spring water as it’s free of contaminants and additives, does not contain fluoride (a potentially harmful additive found in tap water) and has naturally occurring essential trace minerals.
Take a Nap – While napping may be the last thing on your mind during a busy day at the office and when running errands, it will work wonders to reduce and eliminate your stress levels.
Dozing off for just twenty to thirty minutes in the afternoon will re-energize you and clear your mind, which has a direct impact on your stress levels.
Napping slows down your heart rate and temporarily reduces your blood pressure, instantly lowering your stress levels and leaving you feeling refreshed.
Meditate – Meditation does not have to be a drawn-out event that takes up a ton of time.
Meditating for just five to ten minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress and induce a sense of calm and tranquility, allowing you to be more productive and focused.
Go to the most quiet room in your house or apartment, close the door and any windows.
For meditation to work, complete silence is key. If you can’t make your meditation room quiet, get some ear-plugs and wear them while you’re meditating.
Take a Quiet Day – You don’t have to go on vacation to enjoy some down time.
Once a week, take a day and don’t do anything stressful.
Listen to music that relaxes you, go swimming at the pool or lake, and just take it easy by not focusing on or worrying about work, bills, and other commitments.
Don’t weight-train on your quiet day.
Put your smartphone in a safe or locker, and don’t access it until the end of the day.
Taking a quiet day will re-charge your mental batteries and allow your brain to function more effectively the next day.
Until next time, your friend and coach,