Stress hits like a ton of bricks in a variety of situations. The pre-game excitement for the big game or seeing your checking account sitting at $3.28 and rent is due tomorrow. Oddly enough, a few years ago that was my life pretty much summed up in a nut shell. Our bodies react to both of those situations to help our body cope with it. This is a perfect example of Eustress vs Distress. Good vs Bad.
Eustress: Any stress that motivates someone towards optimal performance or health. Examples of this would be a 1st date, job promotion, interview, pre-game jitters, 1st kiss, etc etc etc.
Distress: Unfavorable or negative interpretation of an event (real or imagined) to be a threat that promotes fear or anger. This is what a majority of people feel as stress. Examples of this would be money issues, being in a shitty relationship, horrible boss, job you hate, etc etc etc.
Stress can come (acute) and go within a few minutes or last for days, weeks, months or years at a time (chronic). Chronic stress is what can lead to long term health consequences. Our bodies are designed pretty well to handle acute stress pretty well; chronic stress on the other hand… not so much.
Acute stress is super easy to understand. Imagine you are driving on a nice summer night, you are jamming out to some 90’s hip hop and having a good time driving home. Then out of nowhere, blue and reds are flashing in your rear view mirror. You instantly start shaking, heart is beating in your throat, hands start sweating, and your reflexes to turn down Dr. Dre are lightning fast. You talk to the officer in a voice that is 3 octaves higher than your normal speaking voice and your damn hands won’t stop shaking. The officer comes back and tells you to slow down and leaves you with a warning. YES! Your heart returns to your chest, your palms aren’t sweating, and you can actually control your hands again. Body is returning to normal. Threat is over.
Chronic stress on the other hand, can be a cluster F**K to understand and manage. Constantly struggling with money, shitty spouse, horrible job, a leader at work, or a host of other things. Personally, in the past I was horrible at managing stress. I would eat my feelings and get fat, which would lead to more stress. I would date multiple women, which would lead to more stress. I would over exercise and turn a good stress into a bad stress. I would constantly worry about things I had no control over and my hair would fall out. Hell, this happened this fall… it’s just coming back now. Long term stress is what can kill us if we do not get it under control.
Ok, so Chronic Stress how can we manage it. I am awful at doing the things that most rainbow-and-unicorn type of people will suggest, but I am smart enough to know there is something to be said about slowing down and breathing. Things like exercise, meditation, yoga and deep breathing are excellent ways to help your body slow down, and even for a few minutes, get out of the “bad” stress state. This is weird for me to do because I like to go go go and constantly be working on something, but as I was reminded by my wife last night, ‘You used to love that “stretching, workout, breathing thing,” why don’t you get back to it?’ So as part of this 8 week challenge I am hosting, I will also be challenging myself to get back on ROMWOD every day before bed. I challenge you to find a way to handle your mental wellbeing as much you care about your physical wellbeing.