Stress and your body
Emotional stress comes with everyday life. Work, relationships, bills and even the X Factor can have an emotional and stressful effect on us. Some of us are able to cope with stress better than others, possibly as a result of hardening through events that have happened in our lives. Now I am not a counsellor, I am a personal trainer, but a big part of my duty is to counsel my clients on the negative effects that stressful elements are having on their bodies, and help them to combat these effects. Its probably the hardest part of the job.
I see it very often. A client would come in worse for wear obviously pre-occupied and worried about something. I don’t always ask what’s wrong because it’s not my business, but I ask them if they are ok. They can decide whether to consult with me or not. That’s completely up to them.
The objective of this piece is primarily to underline the effects of stress on our body. In the previous example I said that my client looked worn out and pre-occupied when they came in. Their bodies just weren’t up to the fight and it’s understandable. Big events take president over training and furthering yourself. I am not trying to get people to forget or ignore their problems, quite the opposite. I am going to give you the info purely on the effects of stress to your training, and highlight some strategies on how to face issues positively.
There is a chemical connection between the stress we feel emotionally and the stress that is inflicted on our bodies. A perfect example is over-training. When your body is consistently pushed too far beyond its extremes the result is a breakdown in muscle tissue and slowdown in metabolic rate, but the interesting thing is how it makes the person feel: they feel stressed, unwilling to train and highly unmotivated. The mind body connection is clear.
This seemingly chemical connection is in our hormones, our body’s messengers. Our hormones control our mood, metabolism, muscle building and have an impact on just about anything our body does. When our bodies undergo extreme physical or emotional stress, our body increases its cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that our body creates due to the “flight or fight” response. From prehistoric and much more primitive times, our ancestors had to flee from large beasts or hunt them down for food. Stress caused an elevated heart rate and a quicker release of energy.
Cortisol turns you into a sugar burner, and it causes muscle to be broken down for fuel to supply us with steady energy (muscle can be broken down into sugars but fat cant). So in times of stress, whether emotional or physical, your cortisol levels can start burning muscle for fuel, effectively reducing your bodies needs to burn fats (it stops fat burning).
Coupled with the onset of this unwanted state is the fact that cortisol can trigger cravings. So when you are stressed out, you desire bad foods. It’s a one two punch to effectively destroy your hard work. I have seen fitness programs come to a halt because of stress. It would be my job therefore to counsel my clients on possible methods of stress reduction.
My favourite tactic is in realisation. Put simply; tell them the chemical process of their feelings. I honestly believe that by understanding how stress affects your body and cravings you can undermine the negative feelings, making your feel more positive. Although the event that has you stressed may still be presently active, understanding how it affects your body can subliminally help you summon the willpower the cortisol in your body will now be forcing you to call upon. Stress creates the need for willpower. Understanding stress helps you harness your willpower. Putting a name (cortisol) to your stress helps you overcome it. Being aware of the effects will put you in control.
This is why I wanted to share this article with you, so you can take control of your own body. Don’t let some tiny chemical imbalance keep you away from your goals. Whatever life throws at you, deal with it however you can. You can learn from everything. Feeding your emotions will not help, quite the opposite. Even knowing that you are positively in control will greatly help you deal with the issue. A positive mind is a happier mind, and a positive body is a leaner one.