Getting prepared for any form of competition can be stressful to many of us. With all of the details following up to the event can sometimes be overwhelming and cause the mind and body to shut down or react in ways that are not conducive to our goal(s). Whether it is mental or physical stress can wreak havoc on our lives and bodies. Each of us experience some type of stress in our lives.
Stress can be long term (chronic) or short term (acute). There are many factors that influence our susceptibility to stress. Whether it is home or work related, no one is immune to it.
Reducing Your Stress
Since stress is something that we cannot completely get rid of, we must develop methods to reducing it or adjusting our responses to it.
Stress Affects All Systems Of Our Body
- The heart
- Blood vessels
- The immune system
- Sensory organs
- Digestive system
- And the brain
The heart rate and blood pressure increases instantaneously in response to stressful situations causing the arteries to constrict and pose a possible risk for blocking blood flow to the heart. Our immune system, which helps to fight off infections, can also be affected by stress. Those under chronic stress may be more vulnerable to colds and other viral infections.
Stress also affects the functioning of the brain. Those that are under severe stress may suffer from a lack of concentration and temporary memory loss due to prolonged exposure to cortisol, a stress hormone that affects the brain.
For many, stress can have some major effects on body weight. Some that are under stress suffer a loss of appetite causing them to lose weight. While others develop cravings for high fat, salty and sugary foods causing them to gain weight.
No matter what the cause of our stresses there are ways to adapt healthy habits to minimize stress. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and junk foods can enhance general health and stress resistance. Getting ample amount of rest and relaxation is another way to reduce the effects of stress on the body.
What Can You Do?
Though meditation and relaxation are good ways to help in the reduction of stress, exercise can also play a big role in your mental and physical state.
Those with medical conditions that are stress related can be significantly reduced with exercise. As the body attains a level of fitness, its ability to withstand stress is enhanced. The heart and blood circulation becomes stronger, while the muscles, ligaments, bones and joints also become stronger and more flexible. Adequate exercise helps to strengthen the immune system fighting off illnesses and help the mind to concentrate better. Although exercise will not take away stress, it will definitely help to reduce it.
Exercises & Tips To Help You Connect Your Mind & Body
- Yoga is very helpful when trying to relax your mind and body it can also be a great way of meditation.
- Lying still for 10 to 15 minutes in complete silence while doing deep breathing exercises
- Running or Jogging is a great stress reliever. I like to run when I need to release some stress or just to clear my mind. I don't have to focus on lifting or pulling anything just letting my mind relax helps me to figure things out without the added stress of thinking about what I am doing and what comes next. (If you have seen the movie Forest Gump - This too was his way of working things out in his mind-although he ran for days, your stress may not be that major)
- Planning ahead with your workouts, meals and schedule also helps to keep you focused and less stressed.
- Taking a hot bath and lighting vanilla candles can help to soothe the mind and body.
- Swimming is another form of exercise that can help you to relax.
- Boxing and Kickboxing are other forms of exercises that allow you to release your stress by punching or kicking a bag just in case you are one to lose your temper when stressed.
- Dancing or taking an aerobic class can also be a fun way of reducing your stress level. Putting on your favorite tunes and letting lose to the music or going to a high-energy aerobic class can be a way to let go of some stress.
- And of course weight training is very helpful in reducing stress. Lifting heavy or challenging weight can help you to release all the negative energy that you may be carrying around. I along with an intense cardio regimen enjoy the uplifting energy I get after working out with weights if I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed about an upcoming event or just a having a bad day.
- Getting plenty of rest also helps to minimize stress. Going to bed at a decent hour and getting up at the same time each morning keeps your body on a rhythm and keeps from disrupting your body's ability to replenish hormones that affect both your physical and mental health. Frankly it keeps you from being cranky and moody.
- Getting a deep tissue or sports massage can help to relieve tense muscles due to the affects that stress puts on your body. This for me is a great way to unwind after a long hard day of training and work. Also if I am stressed, a good deep tissue massage puts me in to such a relaxing state that my mind and body is forced to conform to relaxing for at least several hours.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive and support your goals. Keep those that cause additional stresses or drama in your life, especially around competition time as far away as possible. Stress cannot only be hazardous to your health but your physique as well. All the hours spent training and perfecting your physique can be wasted if you allow yourself to be constantly stressed.
Have some fun and loosen up. Get out and play. Laughter can change your mood Make a commitment yourself to staying active and changing habits or situations that put you in the position of losing control or being stressed.