So with very limited rest, 2 jobs, a book deal and a Kettlebell certification with Strength Matters looming, its pretty fair to say I am feeling the full force of stress and fatigue!
Work –Life balance is difficult to achieve when you feel pulled from one thing to the next. Add in any hint of sleep deprivation and you are on a sure fire track to hitting your body with illness.
When life gets busy. Look out for the signs that you are nearing the ‘edge’ and try and instigate small habitual changes during periods when you know you need to push hard in many areas. The body can and does cope remarkably well with lengthy periods of stress and life demands sometimes call for ‘damage limitation’. Whilst this doesn’t mean this is optimal for health, as long as you can manage periods of what I call ‘intensity’ with a good support system in place then you will put yourself in the best possible position to get through the other side unscathed!
So first of all take stock and recognise when things are getting too much. Common signs of stress or overload are:-
Fatigue- Constant fatigue first thing in the morning- lack of recovery from training sessions- a feeling of ‘lead in the legs’ or a ‘heavy head’. Ongoing fatigue is a huge sign that the body is not recovering from overload.
Mental Fog. Trying to fit multiple tasks or achievements in one can lead to a racing mind. Overload of the mind can lead to a lack of focus, ease of distraction and a feeling of being unable to switch off. If you find yourself staring into the fridge with the door open when in fact you should be looking for your car keys ….then take note.
Emotional inconstancy. So one minute you are crying at the sign of a kitten. The next you are ready to commit an act of violence against the man in the coffee shop for taking too long to serve you.- Take mood swings as a sign that your hormones are out of balance. Do not fear. This is not the new you and the men in the white coats are not coming for your assessment. This is just a sign you need to take stock, and think about balance a little more. Reading physiological signs and listening to them before its too late is a great way of learning about yourself and what your body needs.
Racing heart. If you suffer from palpitations and your heart rate remains higher than normal throughout the day this could be a sign that your body is feeling under constant fight or flight. Stress is actually a normal and helpful response for the body and aids survival. It increases the demand for cardiac output which makes the heart rate faster at times when we need it. Over very long periods of time however stress can lead to numerous health problems. Having a constantly racing heart is a sign things need to slow down.
So we’ve identified ourselves in the stress camp- and with this in mind- deadlines approaching (aside from calling in sick with ‘life’)- what can you do ?
RE-ASSESS your TRAINING. Now for some this may mean taking more rest days. For others it may mean taking more rest within your session (between sets), or lowering the intensity by a reduced load.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress but get the balance wrong and it can actually become catabolic (break the body down of vital tissue). This is where having a trainer a coach or a mentor, can be a great way to seek advice about the best way for you to reduce and adapt your activity while still managing to stay in ‘the game’. Training is super important to me and even when times get tough, I crave the stability and routine that this brings. However, having an outside perspective, who can give observations of any reduction in your strength, is invaluable for that third eye (that may be missing from your own forehead).
-SLEEP- as much as possible. If this means going to bed an hour earlier (even when its still light outside to allow you more recovery time. DO IT. When the mind and body shuts down, this allows repair and relaxation to take place. A good nights sleep can make or break the week ahead. If you find it difficult to sleep then simply focus on relaxation in bed. Observing your own breathing can help this. Simply count a slow count of 4 as each breath draws in heavily through the nose and into your belly.
Check out You Tube for ‘diaphragmatic breathing tips/tutorials’ if you are unsure or visit https://www.headspace.com for further tips on relaxation and meditation.
-DIARY in some GREENS time. So this allows mental rest. While you may be crying out to ‘get everything done’, the outcome of this can be mental overload and a lack of clarity. Science proves that taking a trip outside to be with nature physiologically reduces the symptoms of stress, allowing you to feel back in the game when you return home!
-Take stock of NUTRITION. Keep your ‘rainbow of nutrition up’ When the body is under stress the immune system can be reduced so it needs all the help it can get in terms of vitamin’s, minerals and the right balance of macronutrients. Keep a track of ensuring green, purple, red, orange natural foods are included in every meal you can.
Certain foods will help increase a state of relaxation in the body.Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that your body can’t produce for itself. It is needed as the precursor to melatonin, your 'sleepy hormone’ so try eating foods that are known to be high in this before bed (bananas/turkey/almonds/oats/warm milk/marmite).
-READ FEEL GOOD BOOKS/MANTRAS/SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE
We all need a little pick me up ever now and then and what better way than to curl up in bed with a feel good, positive punching book. Reading relaxes the mind and can lead to more restful sleep (pending your choice of book of course). I also find that words of strength and encouragement before you go to sleep really help to set you up for the following days tests ahead. My current recommendation- ‘Think Like an Athlete’ by David Nicholson. David makes some excellent recommendations to keep you mentally strong and focused.
If you don't like reading call a friend - family member or colleague who has the ‘X Factor’- these are the ones in life who pick you up, who make you feel that you CAN DO IT. Because you CAN and you WILL. Surrounding yourself with good people is a must when the world of stress kicks in.
So there we have it !
A few adjustments to life and you’ll be back feeling like a Rock Star in no time. And always remember:-