The 21st century has set up a high-speed lifestyle, creating the ideal conditions for a risk known as chronic stress. How does our body react to it? Can we adapt to this type of stress? And how much does it influence our lives, including our sports activities?
The difference between stress and stress
There really is a significant difference between long-term (chronic) and short-term (acute) stress, which people have been exposed to since the beginning of time, whether it be during a hunt or a battle with the enemy. The body’s reaction to stress often helped our ancestors survive. In turn, it was exactly the secreted hormones (especially adrenaline) that secured the energy and concentration necessary for the battle or flight. Reactions to short-term stress usually took place over a period of several minutes.
And then there’s long-term stress, which keeps us in its grip for several days, weeks or even months. There’s no surprise then that it brings along with it many negative effects, also having an adverse impact on physical and mental health. The hormonal storm that rages during the acute stress reaction can be compared to a long-lasting inversion in the weather when it comes to chronic stress. The body is trapped under very unfavourable conditions and it isn’t able to adapt to the conditions sufficiently. What difficulties can you end up facing?
Symptoms of long-term stress
The most common ones include:
- nervousness, shaking hands;
- hot flashes, sweating (caused by a rise in blood pressure);
- nausea, diarrhoea, frequent urination;
- mood swings, anxiety, depression;
- insomnia combined with daytime sleepiness;
- skin problems (especially acne);
- disruptions in the menstrual cycle
- weight gain difficult to control.
Significant complications bring such stress to athletes who ask the question …
How does stress affect training results?
In more serious cases, it can do so quite substantially. The following may appear on account of stress:
If you looked forward to trainings, you used to come to the gym full of energy and anticipation, you can easily be confronted with a situation where exercise will be a necessary evil for you.
A body under stress is out of balance; it is exposed to long-term exertion, and so it’s no surprise that when you add the training load, it becomes difficult for the body to regenerate. There is also an increased risk of injury and post-training muscle pain is more pronounced and long-lasting.
- faster onset of exhaustion
You’re just not ready to give your usual best – you use up a lot of energy just to get through everyday activities. Stress also affects metabolic processes, including energy production.
Is there a solution?
Naturally, the ideal answer is to eliminate any and all stressful stimuli, but that is a completely utopian idea at the moment. You basically have two options:
- limit stress stimuli;
- effective stress management.
The two are closely linked, and you always have to start based on your individual possibilities. Many people face great stress in connection with their profession. Sometimes it is possible to adjust your schedule, plan deadlines and arrange the day for it to be less stressful. But you are not always the person setting the rules. In that case, it’s best if you complement the difficult job with leisure activities that will help you cope with the stress, thereby adjusting your lifestyle overall.
Stress under control
If you’re not able to remove something toxic from your life, it’s always best to gain control of it. In the case of stress, it’s not easy, but with a dose of patience and confidence, you’re sure to be on the right track soon.
Your ability to work with stress is influenced by:
- genes – every person has a genetic code that determines whether he/she succumbs to stress easily or is surprisingly resistant;
- relationships – when stress at work is balanced with a relaxed family life, it’s obviously something completely different from when a person clocks off from a demanding day at work and heads home to face another “battle”;
- diet – some foods and beverages can support stress and worsen its mental and physical manifestations. This group mainly includes
- coffee: caffeine has been shown to reduce the ability to cope with stress, increase nervousness, can cause insomnia and, moreover, reduces magnesium and vitamin B levels;
- foods that are high in sugar and fat: although sugar serves as an immediate source of energy and can reduce stress temporarily, it is followed by an unpleasant decline. Studies show that saturated fats are linked to a higher risk of depression;
- alcohol: don’t be fooled by the initial effect; in the long run, using alcohol to deal with stress leads to the exact opposite effect.
- nutritional supplements – in order for the body to better manage situations caused by stress, it has to be in harmony when it comes to individual nutrients. Thanks to stress, some substances are secreted to a far greater extent and should be replenished in adequate doses. Pay particular attention to:
- essential fatty acids, which have a beneficial effect on the nervous system and brain functions;
- calcium, which relieves many symptoms of stress, whether it be muscle tension or anxiety attacks;
- B vitamins thanks to their ability to support metabolic processes
- vitamin C because it strengthens the immune system as well as the ability to regenerate;
- magnesium, which influences hormonal activity and energy production, helps relax muscles and relieves anxiety attacks. It is always a good idea to choose supplements with goodquality and absorbable forms of magnesium
- naturally, some substances from the phytonutrients group, in suitable combinations, offer truly effective results, harmonize mental processes, improve the ability to concentrate as well as your chances to deal with intense longterm stress.
- physical activity – a lack of exercise clearly feeds stress; on the other hand, regular training can effectively relieve stress.
- rest – many people have forgotten how to truly rest: it seems incomprehensible, but just think about how many times you may have been lying in bed, but your head was still full of all the things you had to do, what tasks you had to accomplish, etc.
In short, we’re never going eliminate stress from our lives, but we can certainly learn to control it and effectively reduce its impact based on a healthy lifestyle and with the help of suitable .
Author: Kateřina Gotzová