Okay, so let’s face it, all of us experience stress. Whether it’s a looming deadline that’s causing you worry, a thousand obligations and not enough time or financial pressures that just won’t quit, stress is perceived as a normal part of our lives. And studies have shown that little bit of stress isn’t necessarily bad (it can actually make us more productive) but a high level, well, that’s bad news. We spoke to founder of Uppy and health coach Laura Moore about the chaos high levels of stress can cause, why it’s affecting our results and how too much stress can ruin a workout.

 

Identifying seriously stressed clients

“The first, easy sign of somebody dealing with too much stress is frequent complaints of having no time and too much to do,” Moore explains. “Of course this is a common complaint amongst most people, but when this perceived lack of hours in the day and large workload starts to affect a person’s wellbeing, that’s when we know we have a problem.” Moore says there are many key indicators to help identify if a person has reached an unmanageable level of stress, including poor sleeping habits (less than six hours a night), inconsistent energy levels (either wired or exhausted), an all or nothing mentality to exercise (either getting an intense workout every day or doing nothing at all) and inconsistent eating habits, constant cravings or lack of appetite.

Reducing stress (when the things that stress us are unavoidable)

“It is important to remember that stress is simply an emotion and is different for everyone. So while we may not be able to remove the thing that is causing us stress we can change our response to it,” says Moore. “The first step is to go back to basics and ensure you have a solid foundation. I’m talking about getting crystal clear on what you really want and what’s truly important to you. Understanding your core values and what they mean to you is key – once you have this you can check in with them every time a ‘stress’ pops up and assess if responding to it in the current way is serving you and your true needs, or if a different response would do this better.”

Moore defines your core values as the basic things that mean the most to you and for most of us, we don’t consider these often enough. “So, let’s say that one of your core values is your health, which it is for many of us – if you know that by responding to something as a stress is going to spark this tidal wave of reactions within your body, have a great impact on one of your core values and ultimately prevent you from achieving what you truly want, do you think that would motivate you to adopt a different reaction?” Moore asks. She has been amazed by how powerful this simple mindset shift can be, “I’ve seen it completely turn around people’s behaviours and positively impact all areas of their lives.”

How our stress affects our workout

“Stress can affect exercise performance in terms of motivation and power output if energy, mood and general health are down,” says Moore. However, even if you’re highly stressed but still make sure to fit in a regular, intense workout, your body might not be too happy about this either. “Exercise is indeed a stress on the body, when carried out correctly it doesn’t need to be a harmful stress, but if your body is already encountering many of the responses mentioned earlier then by consistently working out at a high intensity you’re simply adding fuel to the fire,” explains Moore.

“Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you exercise you still don’t get the results you desire? Of course there can be many different factors at play here, but a major one that is often overlooked is the fact that you are simply increasing an already overstocked supply of adrenaline and cortisol, which among other things can inhibit fat loss and deplete your energy,” she says. It’s important to tune in to your body. If work or home life is causing you to miss out on down time then fitting in that extra, high-powered workout probably isn’t as important as giving yourself time to unwind. Choose wisely and don’t overdo it.

Simple rituals for less stress

According to Moore, reducing stress is less about changing parts of our life and more about deciding which parts of our life have the power to affect us. “The key to keeping stress levels down is to stay connected: to what’s important to you, who you truly are and what you’re striving for. It’s easy to lose sight of this as the day goes on and all the external pressures start to influence your thoughts and behaviours. By regularly bringing yourself back to that solid foundation you can reduce these feelings,” says Moore.

Here are four ways to instantly reduce stress:

  • Think of 3 things you’re grateful for and a time that you were truly happy – to lift your mood.
  • Take 10 deep slow belly breaths and focus your attention on the breath – to calm your mind and sympathetic nervous system.
  • Look at your values and goals – to remember what’s important to you.
  • Move – to energise yourself.

“These quick rituals are a great way to start. Introducing time for meditation has benefits that far exceed any other method. Begin with an app to guide you through and try to practice once in the morning and once in the afternoon – before you hit the 3pm slump and reach for the coffee or sugar.”