Today's Lesson: High Stress Merry Christmas!

Stressing this season? Tell me about it! I went shopping to buy some gifts for my nephews over this past weekend, and had totally forgotten what a mess Christmas shopping can be! I expected to put up with crowds in the stores, and had completely forgotten that first you have to put up with the traffic going to the store, the bad drivers along the way, play “Lets Find a Spot: The Impossible Parking Game”, and THEN come the crowds in the stores literally punching and elbowing each other left and right to get at the last Guitar Hero World Tour for the Nintendo Wii! THE STRESS!

New York is a high stress city as it is, with the traffic and the hustle of bustle of life here. I am motivated to write this today considering the holidays (which are very stressful), considering the current state of our downward spiraling economy (much more stressful), considering the dramatic changes in weather (still stressful), and considering that we are still wondering where the future is headed (hopeful, but still stressful!)

Today’s lesson will begin to teach a little bit about stress, yet another important aspect of health and fitness that we were never taught how to handle in school. Life 10,000 years ago, the only stress our ancestors faced was where their next meal was coming from, or whether or not they were being chased by an animal. Our survival mechanism known as the “fight or flight” response triggers a whole chain of hormonal reactions throughout the body, our heart rate increases, our adrenaline starts pumping, and our cortisol levels are elevated (insert more geeky science stuff here*).

It is only within the last few hundred years or so that we have been presented with a multitude of different stressors. Not only are we stressed about our most basic survival needs including food and water, we are stressed about relationships, family, money, work, time, school, holiday shopping, etc.

Even though we are stressed by so many different aspects of our lives, our body can only process these stressors as one huge stress mess. Picture each type of stress as a faucet around a tub, food is a faucet, dehydration is a faucet, finances are a faucet, the crowds are a faucet – all these faucets pour into your body’s stress tub at the same time, then your body processes it as one huge stress response. Your body doesn’t know if you are being chased by a wild tiger, if you are late for an important meeting, or if you are in gridlock at Wal-Mart and trying to get to Best Buy before closing! The internal response is the same! Looking at it that way, you can see why stress levels are constantly elevated.

How do you deal with stress?

  1. First identify your PRIMARY stressor, this can be anything from lack of sleep, not eating enough food, not drinking enough water, to the stress of living whether it is something at work, or just Christmas shopping. Alleviating your primary stressor will create a domino effect eliminating other stressors that follow it.
  2. Make a plan to address your biggest stressor. Create a system of achievable short term goals to help you overcome your biggest issue.
  3. Eat and drink right. Remember that not eating, snacking or drinking properly will create stress on your body. This will only add to the stresses currently affecting your life. Take care of your basic needs, and the others will follow.

So, this season, when you find yourself stressed out, take a step back, take a deep breath and start reducing your stress one step at a time.

Happy holidays, and stay strong!


*Our heart rate increases, our adrenaline starts pumping, and our cortisol levels are elevated. Cortisol is a necessary regulatory hormone in the body; however it is a catabolic (tissue-destructive) hormone. Long-term over production of cortisol in the body will suppress the much needed anabolic (tissue building) hormones. More cortisol will break down body tissues and fatigue the adrenal glands. Adrenal fatigue will lead to immune dysfunction which will then lead to more diseases over time.

This has been @ Joey’s Gym Class Production

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