By Stefan Ianev, Head Of Educational Development www.cleanhealth.com.au
Stress comes in many forms. While some stress is healthy and needed in order to make you take action and grow, too much can do the exact opposite and can be very detrimental to your health and well being. In this article I want to share with you 5 ways you can manage your stress effectively so you can be happier, healthier and avoid burning out.
- Keep your workouts short
Intense training causes an acute increase in cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones. Normally this a good thing as it leads to greater mobilization and utilization of fuel substrates, which allows you to train harder and burn more body fat or build more muscle.
However, if you take a highly stressed individual you are only compounding the problem because they are already in a chronically stressed state. When in a chronically stressed state the adrenals are constantly being depleted of raw material, which eventually leads to adrenal insufficiency or chronic fatigue.
One way to manage chronically elevated cortisol levels in the gym is to keep your workouts short. Past the one-hour mark cortisol levels skyrocket. For highly stressed individuals I usually limit them to three or four 45-minute sessions per week.
- Eat at regular times each day
One of the best ways to manage stress throughout the day is to eat at regular times. When you eat at regular times each day the body will program your hunger hormone ghrelin to be released only when it is time for a meal.
This in turn will allow you to maintain stable blood sugars, appetite, and energy throughout the day. More important than how often you eat is to eat at the same times each day so your body knows to anticipate food at that time since it has programmed your ghrelin levels accordingly.
When you miss a meal blood sugars will drop. This in turn will cause a release in cortisol to increase blood sugar. For someone already exposed to chronically elevated cortisol levels this will only further compound their problem.
For most of my client I recommend they eat 3 meals per day and consume 2 shakes in between. This makes it easy for them to maintain a regular eating schedule without any additional food preparation time.
- Create a morning ritual
Managing your emotions is one of the most important things you can do to manage your stress. After all stress is simply a matter of perception. Two individuals can respond completely different to the same stressor because of how they perceive it.
Having an empowering morning ritual is a great way to set yourself up with a positive outlook for the day so you are better equipped to deal with daily stressors. I recently started practicing a morning ritual that I learned from Tony Robbins, which only takes 10 minutes and has been invaluable for getting me off to a great start each day.
To perform this exercise, sit on a chair with your eyes closed and begin breathing deeply into your belly. You may play some soothing ambient music if it helps.
Start by spending about 3 minutes thinking about 3 moments in your life that you are grateful for. Next spend about 3 minutes imagining a beam of light is penetrating your body from above and rejuvenating all your cells. Finish up by spending about 3 minutes envisioning 3 three things you would like to have happen in your life as if they have already happened.
- Create an evening ritual
Just as it is important to have a morning ritual which sets you up positively for the day it is equally important to have an evening ritual which enables you to get a good night’s rest.
Firstly, it is important to get in the habit of going to bed at the same time every night. This will program your circadian rhythm so that you begin to feel tired at the same time each night so you can fall asleep.
About an hour before sleep I dim the lights and turn of all my electrical communication devices such as my phone and computer. This is not the time to be doing work or checking emails, as it will only make you more wired. This is time that I spend with my wife and we usually read or watch some light-hearted TV.
Five minutes before bed I take out my journal and begin to write about one experience I’ve had that day which I am grateful for. Just let your mind go free and describe the experience in as much detail as possible. This will lock in that experience in your memory bank and allow you to go to bed on a positive note instead of being stressed and wired.
- Schedule some down time
This may sound like it goes without saying but a lot of highly stressed individuals that I know are like that because they actually don’t know how to switch off.
They convince themselves it’s because they simply have way too much on and they can’t let their guard down even for a minute. The reality is that if you have scarcity mindset regarding time you are always going to find yourself short of time. I know because I used to be one of those individuals. The so-called stressed achiever.
By actually scheduling some downtime on a daily basis not only will you be refreshed and recharged which will allow you to enjoy your work a whole more but you will also be way more productive.
When you know you only have a set amount of time you have given yourself to complete your work, watch how all of a sudden you will start getting your work done a whole lot quicker. You will stop wasting time checking and rechecking your emails or Facebook multiple times per day and get down to business!