Sometimes you start writing about one thing and it ends up being something entirely different. This post happened kind of like that for me. I meant to get off the topic of mindset and spend a little more time on nutrition and application. But it turns out that stress has been top of mind this week. Experiencing a higher than usual level of stress myself at the moment, I guess it all makes sense.
And no it is not only caused by the Crossfit Open, although for sure it has added to my plate. But also right now life is just busy and I need to do a better job at carving time for myself. I can sense things are just bubbling over. I am aware of how this is affecting me, my sleep is not as good, my energy is lower as a result. Lack of sleep affects my appetite and willpower. My mood is affected and the funny thing is when you are stressed you are less likely to engage in the activity that help you relieve stress.
Even when we aren’t fully aware of it, stress can affect many aspect of our health.You may think food intolerances are to blame for your digestive issues, hormones for your frequent insomnia or your nagging headaches. But stress is highly likely to be behind it all.
Being able to recognize the signs of stress can better prepare us to manage it. Because one thing I know for sure is if we don’t manage our stress properly it will negatively impact our body’s ability to reach our weight loss goals.
Remember that two weeks in July when you were on holidays at the cottage, slept in every day, made yourself Instagram worthy smoothie bowls and started each day with a little yoga on the deck? You also have time to sit and read, watch sunsets every night, and found time to cook your meals from scratch. The results were pretty amazing, your digestion was amazing, you slept like a baby, you felt like a babe in your bathing suit every day and confidence was sky high. You came home vowing to hang on to that feeling.
Fast forward to right now when real life is in the mix. You have two young kids, one who has been sick all week, a demanding boss at work and traffic has been a nightmare. On top of this you signed up for the Crossfit Open and have all these expectations for yourself. Like surely you have improved since last year, otherwise what’s the point? Today you felt frumpy when you woke up, you are wondering where you abs are and can’t remember the last time you took a deep breath never mind had time to stretch!
Were the smoothie bowls magical? Or could it be that this was just you with less stress in your life? Don’t underestimate the effects stress can have on your body.
We can’t eliminate stress but we can certainly improve our response to it, we can learn to see it coming and we can put in place daily habits to help us cope with it.
In order to create change, like trying to successfully lose weight, we need to learn to manage stress. Stress is impossible to remove completely and trying to control everything is futile, but we can 100% control how we respond to it. In your pursuit of weight loss you will undoubtably be adding stress to your life. Whether by creating a calorie deficit or adding more exercise. Sometimes doing both. If you add more stress into an already stressed bucket it is more likely to spill over.
Adding additional stress (even the perceived healthy one like a good diet and exercise) can put your body in survival mode and will not create the desired adaptation. Which is why in our coaching we are big on tracking how you feel and not just look at numbers. By tracking your bio-markers like your mood, appetite, sleep and overall energy we keep a tab on how you are handling the stress in your life.
Controlling everything is impossible. Managing our stress is possible.
Of course, if you have small children your sleep may not be totally within your control. Same if you have a shift work schedule. But yet, you can control what time you go to bed and you can create a better environment for sleep. No one is making you scroll through Instagram in your bed past your bed time. Being pro-active instead of being reactive is key. You can control how much you sleep.
Yes I said above you may have small kids and a job that keeps you up. But still a lot of it is within your control, establish a firm routine that prioritize good sleep. Turn off your screens before bed. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Cut down alcohol. Get to bed. Get your shit together if your health is a priority, sleep should be #1 on your list.
What else is under your control?
- Your training volume and intensity. My advice is ALWAYS that you only train as hard as your ability to recover. And that will change at certain times in your life. It can even change month to month. Pay close attention to how you feel and how well you are recovering. While you may be able to handle a certain amount of volume at certain times in your life, if you are an accountant and it’s tax season for example or your wife is due next month, cutting back in the gym or subbing a couple high intensity sessions for yoga would be advisable. High intensity exercise especially like Crossfit or Spin classes and Orange Theory can add stress to the body. I for one am guilty of this. I use Crossfit as my main sport. It is also my own way to relax, my time for myself, but in all honesty, Crossfit adds stress to my life and sometimes it is not what I need. In higher times of stress you want to control the volume and intensity of your training to match the amount of recovery you are able to put in right now. Be honest with yourself. Should you hit the gym today or maybe a nap is what you truly need or a gentle hike through the forest? Maybe for a few weeks it would make more sense for you to do Crossfit 3x a week and yoga 2x a week until you feel more recovered.
- How much coffee you drink. If you are not sleeping 7-9 hours nightly, this is the first thing you should look at. Needing 3 coffees daily to just function is not normal.
- How much alcohol you drink. Alcohol may seem like a good way to take the edge off and help you doze off at night. Sleep will come quicker after a drink or two, but your sleep quality declines on alcohol. Sleep impairs your circadian rhythm and your ability to get into REM sleep which is considered by some to be your most restorative sleep.
- The people you associate with. Surround yourself with people that are good for you. Studies clearly show that happy relationships are key to a healthy life.
- The food you eat. Nourishing your body with nutrient dense foods and eating enough to support your health. What we put in our bodies impact our mood, energy and physical health.
And when all else fails. Remember you are the keeper of your time.You are responsible for your health. It’s your lifestyle that will dictate your results and your health.
How can you start managing your stress? On top of prioritizing your sleep, managing your coffee and balancing your training intensity and volume you can also look to add ways to take down stress in your life.
- Find some quiet time for yourself.
- Breathing Exercise. And/or Meditation.
- Time in nature. This is a HUGE one for me I really feel it in the winter month when I am missing my dose of nature.
- Eating to support your goals and your health, food quality, controlling meal frequency to manage blood sugar, appropriate carbohydrates to support recovery, avoiding inflammatory food.
- Cutting out or reducing alcohol.
- Include time for mobility with a movement, or stretching practice like yoga or flow class.
- Body work like massage or acupuncture.
- Epsom salt baths or hot showers before bed.
- Sauna use.
- Gentle movement like walking and yoga.
- Reading a good book.
- One on one time connecting with good friends
- Turn off social media and electronics for 24hrs.
So many options. Just like you can’t outrun a bad diet, you can’t outwork poor lifestyle choices.
Research estimates the 75 to 90% of all doctors visit are for stress-related issues. To top this, stress is a factor in 5 of the leading cause of death. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory disease and accidents.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like a good reason to pay attention to it.
“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you gain the power to change ANYTHING in your life.”