Stress can be brutal, heck it could even kill you.
And let’s face it, we are a stressed society.
Check out these facts*:
- 1 in 5 Americans experience ‘extreme stress’ and 3 in 4 report experiencing at least one symptom of stress in any given month (i.e. lack of sleep, emotional stress, unhealthy foods, etc.)
- Stress is the primary cause of 60% of all human illness and disease
- 3 out of 4 doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments
- The average American gets 10 ‘vacation days’ and 8 national holidays as part of their job (The average worker in a country, like France, gets 7-weeks)
- 90% of Americans are stressed over money
What stressors do you face in your daily life?
Even the stressors you may not necessarily view as ‘stress’ can have a great impact on your quality of life and health, such as:
- Your progress in your daily training can be suppressed
- Your sleep can substantially decrease
- High caffeine consumption to “combat” stress symptoms such as fatigue and lack of mental acuity
- Over-reliance on energy drinks, supplements and shakes for nutrition sources (as opposed to real food)
- Poor digestion
However, because they have become your ‘norm’, you may not even realize why or how they are keeping you (and your body) stressed.
How does stress specifically harm your body?
When stress becomes a regular occurrence in your daily life, the hypothalamus (brain command center) is activated and triggers your adrenals to release cortisol: the stress hormone. Some stress is a normal part of life, and cortisol is a hormone that is intended to be released in a specific rhythm throughout the day (for instance, high in the mornings when you awake, and gradually decline throughout the day).
However, with chronic stress, an influx of cortisol happens, and this influx of cortisol leaves your body with some not-so-pretty side effects, including:
- Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
- Heightens sugar and hunger cravings
- Impairs your body’s ability to burn fat and decreases your metabolism
- Raises your blood sugar levels
- Triggers poor immunity
- Imbalances your hormone levels
- Provokes depression, anxiety and mood imbalances
- Suppresses your HPA-axis (hormonal imbalance)
…Just to name a few.
While total stress avoidance is realistically unavoidable in life…that’s what rest days are for.
Use your rest days with this intention in mind: De-stress.
After all, if you are not incorporating some form of stress management on a regular basis, you will sabotage all of your best efforts with diet, exercise and supplements.
Here are 10 Ways to Alleviate Stress on Rest days
- Get outside. Fresh air does a body good. Get some Vitamin D in the great outdoors.
- Actively do something out of routine. Something you don’t typically do. Rock climbing. Paddle boarding. Swimming. Hiking. Biking. A yoga class. Get outside the box and just do something for daily movement.
- Socially or creatively do something out of routine. Check out a festival or event going on in your city; attend a Meet-Up; go to listen to a local band; take a stab at pottery making; visit the local animal shelter and play with the pups; grill out at the park; explore the shops on a popular touristy street in your town; again, get out of routine for a few hours.
- Cook something delicious. Pull out that recipe book collecting dust, or Google search a Paleo-inspired dish you’ve been craving (i.e. pizza, ice-cream, tacos, etc.) and have fun with it!
- Give meditation a try. Check out 8-Minute Meditation to get started!
- Give back. You are always on a schedule, and have a laundry list of to-dos, that it can be easy to forget there is a bigger world out there—outside ourselves. Serve lunch or dinner at a homeless shelter, tutor or mentor kids one day per week, visit a nursing home and play Bingo with some older (and wiser) folks. Volunteering is linked to improved health and decreased stress.
- Clean it. Be productive and de-stress at the same time. Clearing the clutter can help clear the mind. Organize your closet or that stack of papers sitting on your desk. Deep clean your bathroom tiles. Wash your sheets. Use that rest day to go a little extra mile in getting life together (to promote less stress throughout the week).
- Connect. Intentionally schedule time on your rest days that you may otherwise be at the gym to connect with friends or your social network (in person). According to a recent Gallup poll, the happiest people in the world are those who have 6-7 hours of social connectivity in their days.
- Self-care, specifically sleep! You know you need it…but how often do you do it? This could look like anything from a massage or ‘body work’, to a pedicure, facial, haircut, ice bath, mobility session…really giving your body some nice R & R.
- Relax your mind. Check out from the thinking, planning, achieving, striving, to-doing you do on a daily basis and take some time for a much needed ‘brain break’. Read something, just for the enjoyment of it, watch a documentary or movie you’ve been meaning to see, tap into your inner creative (painting, writing, photography)—do things that allow your mind to just be in the moment.
It is so important to do these things consistently because they allow your to be mindful and present – when you are worrying about everything else in life you are building stress. When you are enjoying something that interests you and your mind is fully engaged in that you are relaxing. You can’t always be “on” with work and challenging activities because it will burn you out over the long run.