Stress! Don’t let it stress you out!

This week I’m discussing a topic which shouldn’t be taken lightly whether it be in relation to your health and fitness goals or in life generally. It’s fair to say that stress is something we as humans experience fairly regularly whether it be in the form of physical or emotional. There are varied definitions of stress and from what I can see no exact medical definition for it.

I would sum up stress as : The feeling or reaction that occurs in our body as a result of a pressured emotional or physical situation. 2 examples could be

-Rushing about when you wake up late 

-Attempting a maximal effort lift on the Bench Press

When stress occurs a reaction takes place in our body, which is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. 2 hormones associated with this situation are cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are released to help our body prepare or tackle these high pressure situations. Physical symptoms you can expect to experience are

-Increased heart rate

-Sweating or feeling hot

Emotional signs of stress can include:

-Feeling tense or very alert 

-Becoming short tempered


Going back to the hormones I touched on Cortisol in a previous blog. To recap cortisol is a steroid hormone released from the adrenal gland as a result of stress or low blood sugar levels. Cortisol is released to assist your body during these times under stress. This can be seen as a short term benefit to keep us functioning but long term constant and regular release can lead to weight gain, water retention as well effects on mood. Ways to control your levels of cortisol include regular sleep patterns, a controlled diet and taking time to relax.


Adrenaline is also released from the adrenal glands to quickly provide your muscles with oxygen as well the redirection of blood towards the big muscle groups include heart and lungs. There are however issues associated with persistent adrenaline release, as a result of stress, when the body isn’t in a fight or flight situation. Example are:

– Potential issues with dizziness

– Constantly feeling irritable 

– Heart palpitations

– Heart and sleep problems

In relation to exercise, I see overtraining as a common cause of stress for the body. This can range from seeing individuals training 7 days a week or even lifting too heavy each time they train. This increases the risk of injury as well as reducing the ability for the body to recover well and therefore not being able to reduce the amounts of cortisol and other damaging chemicals present in the body. 

The key is now not to go to extreme  levels to avoid stress, that clearly isn’t possible. We have to accept that at some point we will be faced with various stressful situations, however we can learn to prepare ourselves mentally and physically best we can.

– Allow sufficient sleep/rest periods each day 

– Apply appropriate nutrition to fuel your lifestyle

– Avoid overtraining 

– Ask for help if needed 

– Plan ahead


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