Tag Archives: Stress

How to make stress your friend

Stress.

For most people even hearing the word stress makes them immediately feel stressed. The constant push to be everywhere at all times will inevitably cause you to feel stressed.

The problem is that we’ve been told that stress is the enemy and whenever you feel stress, you need to immediately find ways to make it go away… which normally causes – you guessed it – more stress! It’s a vicious cycle.

I recently had the opportunity to watch a June 2013 TedTalk by Physiologist Kelly McGonigal on the topic of stress. Before you watch, here is the synopsis:

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

Is stress harmful for your health?

According to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked 29,000 people to rate their level of stress over the past year as well as how much they believed this stress influenced their health – a little, a moderate amount or a lot. Over the next eight years, public death records were used to record the passing of any subjects.

The findings: People who reported having high levels of stress and who believed stress had a large impact on their health had a whopping 43% increased risk of death. On the other hand, those that experienced a lot of stress but did not perceive its effects as negative were amongst the least likely to die as compared to all other participants in the study.

What does that mean?

A very large percentage of people died because they simply believed stress was bad for you. How you think about how good or bad stress actually is for you – will dictate how stress affects your health.

So, can changing how you think about stress, make you healthier?

Science says yes.

A few key points for you to consider:

  • When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.
  • How you think about stress matters.
  • You need not get rid of stress – you need to change how you think about stress.

A few of my favourite quotes from Kelly:

“When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.”

“When you reach out to others under stress – either to seek support, or help someone else – you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier and you actually recover faster from stress.”

“Your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience – and that mechanism is human connection.”

“Chasing meaning it better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.”

One of the best points Kelly made (IMO) in this talk was from the study findings which found that no matter how you view stress – negative or positive – going after what creates meaning in your life and trusting yourself to be able to handle the stress that follows, still proved to be better for you above all else.

I hope this changes your perspective of stress, it definitely has for me. This moment forward, I’m going to be more mindful about how I react to stressful situations and change my thinking from negative – to positive.

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Everything happens for a reason

After staying out of the gym and taking it easy for over a week, I am BACK!

If you missed my last post, I was off sick from work for four days last week with strep throat… a really bad bout of it. I couldn’t get off the couch until the fourth day and had a very, very low key weekend. I won’t go into detail as to how awful it was, but let’s just say I wouldn’t wish what I had on anyone, ever. Thank god for modern medicine because without it, I don’t know how I would have gotten better as quickly as I did.

The worst part? I missed out on a Kettlebell Instructor course that I’ve been waiting and training for, for months. I was far to weak after being sick and not eating much, to be strong enough for an intense weekend of testing and learning. I could barely stand without getting dizzy the day before it was scheduled to start – there was no way I could do it.

Tough lesson to learn

Here it comes… I was basically just asking for this to happen. Looking back at the past few months, I realize this was bound to happen. The unfortunate part for me was the awful timing. I’ve been taking on far too much and not prioritizing my time (and down time). Starting a new job in itself is stressful enough, but I go ahead and toss on frequently staying up late, not getting enough sleep, over committing myself, filling my schedule at nights and weekends AND trying to eat clean and train. No person can handle all that without getting at least a little overwhelmed. Unlucky for me, I have a tendency to stress myself out… so voila! – Immune system fail.

Looking back at it now, I’m realizing it was probably for the best. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the course and I could use a few more months to train and get my body where it needs to be. I want to feel good about the shape I’m in before I go learn how to teach other people a skill that will help them reach their fitness goals when I haven’t reached mine yet. Sure, taking and acquiring this certification is a goal of mine, but only when it’s right.

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I’ve really come to terms with myself on what my priorities are, and if I’m ever going to be successful in the ones which are most important to me, I have to start saying no to other opportunities. It’s going to be tough, but I’ve learned my lesson the hard way and don’t plan on forgetting how horrible it was any time soon. That being said, I’m feeling way better and refuse to dwell on the time lost. I got back to training tonight and it was tough, as expected, but I went easy on myself (even though I know I’ll be feeling it tomorrow!).

Check out today’s workout:

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I know I have horrible hand writing, so here it is for you written out:

Warm-up to start (I do a variety of stretches and 3x circuit of butt kicks, high knees and jumping jacks to get my blood flowing)

Push presses & snatches – I do about (10x each side for a total of 40) x 2

Workout:

A) 15 exercises (divided into 3 sets of 5) at 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds rest.

You can rest for a minute after each 5 exercise set – or do it straight through. I did it straight through.

Set 1:

1. Alternating reverse lunge (14kg kb)2. Snatches left side (14kg kb)
3. Snatches right side (14kg kb)
4. Inverted row (I used a barbell set on my bench – you can use rings, or TRX here)
5. Burpees

Set 2:

1. Heavy front squat (14kg kb)
2. Single arm swing right (14kg kb)
3. Single arm swing left (14kg kb)
4. Renegade Rows (2 x 14kg kb)
5. Alternating curtsy lunge (14kg kb)

Set 3:

1. Suitcase deadlifts (2 x 14kg kb)
2. Dynamic squats
3. Clean and press right (14kg kb)
4. Clean and press left (14kg kb)
5. Mountain climbers (these were tough at the end!)

* I took a few minutes to rest – this was tough! If I didn’t do it this way, I probably would have done 2 rounds of each set before moving onto the next at 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest – feel free to give that a shot and let me know how it goes!

B) 3 x 3 exercises at 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest – no break in between sets

1. Skipping
2. Straight left deadlifts (24kg kb)
3. Heavy front loaded squats (2 x 14kg kb in the rack position)

After this I was completely spent and I think it was the perfect balance for what I needed after not training for over a week.

Let me know if you need some direction on some of the exercises – happy training!

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