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Eliminating Daily Stress-
Easier said than done for most, but there are a lot of tools to help with this very important element. Stress causes the release of cortisol and inflammation throughout the body. Cortisol works the opposite of testosterone and IFG-1 by actually inhibiting muscle growth. Inflammation is the cause of the aches and pains that athletes feel in their joints making movement more difficult. Both of these side effects can be detrimental to and athlete’s progress.
Most of us work our butt’s off in the gym, but then the rest of our life counter’s the effect of our hard work. If your life is chaotic and stressful, it is going to be almost impossible to become a champion. Controlling stress will be a big step towards success in your chosen sport.
There are also health risks of stress that go way beyond performance. When stressed the body perceives this emotion as danger, which triggers the “fight or flight” response causing the release of cortisol and adrenaline. This will raise the heart rate, increase blood pressure, change the digestive process, and boost glucose levels in the bloodstream. None of this is good for long-term health.
Increased glucose levels can lead to Type II Diabetes. Stress can cause digestive issues such as ulcers and heartburn. If stress continues for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels begin to drop. That can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may make the urethra, prostate, and testes more prone to infection.
Stress causes increased blood flow causing more blood to be pumped to the heart. This process causes inflammation of the coronary artery. This has been directly related to heart attacks. The bottom line is that stress can wreck the body. We can all agree that we don’t want stress in our lives.
How do we combat stress? Well here are a few quick and easy ideas:
• Meditate- meditation is a form of stress release that dates back several years. Whether you are praying or just trying to empty the mind, spending quiet time alone allows the brain to relax. That will stop the “fight or flight” response helping to control cortisol and inflammation responses. I recommend at least 10-15 minutes per day. Firs thing in the morning is a great way to start the day out with a fresh mind.
• Don’t Neglect Recreation- If we are constantly working, then we are never allowing our bodies or minds to relax. Working or training all the time clogs the brain with things that we need to do. This can cause anxiety by overwhelming the athletes causing more and more stress. We all need to play whether it is hiking, canoeing, or chilling by the pool. This will also allow our creative to function at a higher level, which will provide solutions for issues that we deal with in life.
• Staying connected with friends and family- not to sound too wimpy but communication allows us to bounce issues that we are dealing with off of people we know and trust. This is how solutions are developed. A solid support system is a major key to reducing stress.
• Staying Organized- Being unorganized is a big cause of stress. Bills are forgotten. Commitments are left unfulfilled. All of these things can way on people causing stress. I recommend either finding someone who is organized and copying him or her, or get a qualified life coach. I know a lot of people who are leading a more productive stress free life with the aid of a life coach.
• Calming Music- Studies have shown that listening to calming music actually lowered cortisol levels. The next time that you are taking a big exam try listening to some calming sounds of the ocean waves or classical music.
• Sniff some lavender- Now I don’t want to sound to new age. Let’s face it, I am a good ‘ole boy from the mountains of North Carolina, but I am going to do what I have to do. In one study a group of nurses used some lavender oil to reduce stress. The result was that the group using lavender showed much less signs of stress than the nurses without lavender. So I say bring on the lavender, and let’s try it.
• Yoga or Tai Chi- either one of these is great for meditation, proper breathing, and getting those tight muscles relaxed. We have already discusses the importance of meditation. However, we need to talk about proper breathing. Stress causes us to breathe short and rapid breaths into our body. This type of breathing is actually one of the signals that we are in danger, and then the stress system takes over. Learning to control that breathing can be a big step in controlling stress in general. Getting rid of those tight muscles relaxes the body, which is a major counter of stress.
Most of you reading this love the gym. We all maintain active lifestyles, and we all have our goals. Some of us want to be champion weightlifters and powerlifters. Some of us want to be pro soccer players or football players. Then again some of us just want to be healthy. For any of these goals to happen, we need to learn how to deal with stress.
I like to talk about becoming a “master of the mundane”. Controlling stress is one of those mundane tasks that can really separate you from your opponents. Start controlling your stress today with some of these techniques. My biggest prayer is that you will simply become healthier and live a longer and more productive life. This might not be one of my more masculine topics to write about it, but it is one that affects all of us. If I care about my readers, I can’t always write about bar slams and personal records. Sometimes I have to write about the things that you all need to hear. Today is one of those days.