By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
“Stress” and “life” go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whether it’s due to long hours on the job, family conflict, or deciding which gym or fitness studio to bring your talents to, stress is intertwined with existence. Left unchecked though, this silent killer can creep in and thwart your fitness progress, ruin your productivity, and sap the fun out of your life. You can reduce stress and find a manageable balance that allows you to attack each day feeling empowered instead of overwhelmed. Try these five stress reducers at home, and at work. Take back control of your life.
Use your war against stress as an excuse to escape the city life and take in some beautiful outdoor views. The environments that we place ourselves in either increase or reduce our stress levels, which in turn have an impact on our bodies. Urban cities are sensory overload. They not only affect your mood, but also impact your nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. By getting outside into nature, not only will you get some movement, but also the benefits of a calming environment that’s proven to reduce anger, fear, and stress. This powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world also can make you happier, enhance your creativity, help to calm you down, and speed up your recovery from illness.
In a world that is always on the move, recovery methods have become increasingly important. The methodologies that were only available to elite athletes and entertainers are now readily available to anyone looking to elevate their health. Cryotherapy, also known as a cryosauna, is a cold therapy treatment that is like an ice pack for your entire body. The body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures produced by liquid nitrogen for a short period of time. Cryo has been shown to help with weight loss, decreasing exhaustion/inflammation, increasing energy levels, and boosting the immune system. The cold stimulates the nervous system and releases beneficial feel-good biochemicals throughout the rest of the body that can help fight anxiety and stress. It’s also a good way to escape any lingering summer heat.
Napping isn’t lazy; it’s highly beneficial. You can use this stress-reducer at home, and sometimes at work. Taking a little siesta to yourself can reduce stress, increase alertness, and enhance productivity. A lot of us don’t get enough sleep and still walk around expecting to be fully functional on an empty battery. If you find yourself stressed out, or even if you find that exercise makes you tired, then a 30-minute nap could possibly be one of the best stress-reduction tools you pack in your toolbox.
If you can’t bring yourself to nap during the day, work on some better sleep habits. Aim to get to bed at the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. A 2018 study published in the Lancet Psychiatry followed 91,000 adults and discovered that those with inconsistent sleep habits were at higher risk for major depression disorder, more subject to feelings of loneliness, and more likely to report lower levels of happiness. That means you need to start shutting down that phone just a little bit earlier each evening so that you can unwind.
An estimated 80-90% of doctors visits are stress-related. Yoga is an awesome modality to fight stress and find serenity. It has been shown to increase the mind-body connection, improve fitness, and crush anxiety. If you want to give it a try, you can start with a beginner’s vinyasa flow yoga sequence. Eventually you might take a class and try some hot yoga poses.
If you aren’t in the mood for some poses, you can take your mat outside, find the perfect location, and then meditate. Following your breath for 5-10 minutes is an amazing way to find your inner calm. If you don’t already have a mat, I recommend the B Yoga Strong Mat. It’s durable, comfortable, and works wonders for tall guys like me. Check it out here.
If yoga isn’t your thing, use this same mat and knock out a HIIT or bodyweight workout. Try this stress reducer at home if you want privacy. Exercise is an amazing way to fight stress. It not only makes you look good, but it has an effect on a neurochemical basis. When you exercise, you may reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is among the hormones that your body releases due to stress. It also stimulates production of the bodies “feel good” hormones such as serotonin that act as natural pain killers. This is the difference in distress vs. eustress. With that in mind, bring on the burpees! If it’s the exercise that is bringing on the stress for you, you are doing it all wrong. If your fitness journey is making you depressed, then you should definitely check out this article: 5 Reasons Your Fitness Journey May Be Making You Miserable
You don’t need to be everywhere, and everyone doesn’t deserve access to your time. If it doesn’t light you on fire and bring you life, it probably doesn’t deserve your attention. It’s extremely important to set boundaries and preserve your energy. If you have any theme or word for the rest of this year, let it be “no”. You will find that by saying no more, you will be less stressed and happier, because you will spend your time doing things that you actually enjoy doing.