Stress affects the lives of millions of people around the globe every day. According to studies conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 13% of Australians experience high levels of psychological distress every day.
Stress can be defined as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. When we are stressed, our nervous system releases cortisol & adrenaline. During this time under stress, your heart also pumps faster, muscles tighten and your blood pressure rises. These symptoms occur as your body is triggered by a release of hormones.
While some levels of stress are normal, if stress becomes an everyday overwhelming emotion, it can harm our physical, psychological, and mental wellbeing. We’ve put together some tips to manage your stress and minimise the impact on your fitness journey.
When you move your body regularly, you release a chemical called endorphins. The endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, which also boosts your mood and helps you feel good.
There have been consistent findings showing that people who exercise for 20 to 30 minutes per day can have a calming effect for several hours after exercise. The most common exercise type was aerobic exercise - brisk walking, swimming, cycling, or any activity that elevates the heart rate. Research has also found breaking exercise into two 10 - to 15-minute sessions, one before work and one at lunchtime can help combat stress throughout the day.
While it has been found that a minimum of 30 minutes per day is optimal, you should build up your fitness level day by day to prevent further fatigue or stress. This ensures you don’t burn out or increase your stress levels.
Monitor Your Sleep
A common side effect of stress could mean you may have difficulty falling asleep. At night, darker lighting triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping you sleep.
If you struggle with getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night, aim to optimise your sleeping environment. Ensure you switch your phone off 60 minutes before you get into bed to increase your state of relaxation. Turn on soothing music of a meditation soundtrack. Listen to the music intently and focus on your breathing. Allow your brain this time to be in a relaxed state, which in return will help you get better and more rested sleep.
Get out in the sunlight
The best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the body’s vitamin D supply; most cases of vitamin D deficiency are due to lack of outdoor sun exposure. When we are exposed to the sun, our brain releases a chemical called serotonin. This chemical can give you more energy, boost your mood, while also helping you keep calm and focused.
According to one study from 2008, in a 30-minute period, while wearing a swimsuit, people will make the following vitamin D levels: 50,000 international units (IUs) in most Caucasian people.
Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get Vitamin D. Up to 10 to 30 minutes per day of sunlight is enough to maintain healthy blood levels.
Meditation can be defined in many ways. But a simple way to think of it is training your attention to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions.
As Headspace reports, Scientific studies are increasingly demonstrating the benefits of meditation and mindfulness training. In a study from 2016, meditation was shown to have a longer-lasting effect on reducing stress than a vacation. After ten months of meditating, vacationers’ stress levels returned to what they were while meditators continued to experience reduced stress levels.
Set aside non-negotiable time every day to practice relaxation, such as meditation or yoga. It is recommended you try this twice per day - once in the morning before the day starts and in the evening before bed to wind down. Engaging in relaxation allows you to forget any external stress factors that are happing in your life. Allow yourself to be present in the moment and switch off.
Clean Up Your Diet
Diet plays a huge role in helping reduce the effects of stress on the body. Foods that play a role in triggering stress can include alcohol, caffeine, sugary drinks, and processed foods.
When you are feeling stressed in the moment, some of the best foods you can have include:
- Warm, soothing foods - sipping a warm drink or food has a calming and relaxing effect on the brain.
- Dark chocolate - rich in antioxidants and helps reduce stress via its emotional impact.
- Fatty Fish - a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for heart health.
- Milk - high in calcium and proven to boost your mood.
- Vitamin C-Rich Fruits - added essential vitamins to your diet and help reduce cortisol levels.
- Water - hydrate with enough water to balance your cortisol levels.
Our brains need essential nutrients to function properly. While there is no diet specifically known to reduce stress, research has found certain foods may help reduce stress and anxiety. A diet high in whole foods, vegetables, lean protein, and low in processed foods can help maintain healthy cortisol levels.
Stress can be caused by a variety of different factors. If not managed correctly, stress can increase your risk of long-term health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Exercise, sleep, sunlight, meditation, and diet can play a vital role in maintaining stress levels. It’s important to pinpoint the cause of your stress to best manage triggers in the future.
Remember, the TNT community is here to help and support you at every stage of your fitness journey. Investing in a fitness program with the proper nutrition, training and mindset coaching can help you reduce overall stress and set you up for success in the long-term.