Written by Tiffany Dal Santo
“I stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about”
I first came about this line a few weeks ago and found it completely ridiculous. That was, until I realized it was a perfect description of my everyday life. No matter how you old you are, or what situations you are faced with, stress is something that is found everywhere around us. Of course, every person is different, and therefore experiences different levels of this stress; although, this does not make it any less of a problem. The reality is, forty-three percent of all adults suffer from health effects caused by this constant sense of weight on their shoulders. Many find themselves seeing doctors and asking for prescription drugs in order to decrease their levels of anxiety; when in reality, there is one simple, yet very effective way of solving this problem…. working out.
Before getting into any details about why and how fitness is proved to help cure such a problem, let’s try to understand how stress really affects our mental and physical health.
First of all, stress is broken down into two different categories:
Eustress: Positive stressors.
Example: Feeling giddy before a date
Distress: Negative stressors.
Example: Feeling anxious for an exam
Evidently, there’s nothing dramatically “stressful” about experiencing eustress; if you get what I mean. With that being said, let’s concentrate on the part of stress that is not enjoyable.
How Does Stress Work?
When encountering a certain threat, or intimidating situation (Like going up a roller coaster when you are afraid of heights), a small region found at the bottom of your brain (called the hypothalamus) is triggered. At this instant, many hormones get released through the body such as adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenaline will increase your heart rate giving you a boost of energy, whereas the cortisol will increase the glucose levels in your blood stream. Together, these will work in order for you to release stress hormones and feel more energized and awake than usual. This release of hormones also leads to the phenomenon known as the “fight or flight” response; which, makes your heart beat faster; causing you to feel more tense and have trouble breathing.
Going up and down a roller coaster is considered to be short term stress, which, in essence, is nothing to be worried about. The reason as to why I am saying this is because this type of high will only last a few minutes. Once the roller coaster is over, your heart rate will go down again and your hormone levels will be back to normal. The serious issue only arises when these life- stressors never go away (long term stress). This essentially means that your hormone levels are not where they should be and neither is your heart rate; which explains why so many people who suffer from anxiety are never able to fall asleep. The excess/constant release of cortisol (one of the main stress hormones) disrupts all of the body’s functions, which leads to several health problems including:
» Weight gain (caused by binge eating/over eating)
» Weight loss
» Heart disease
» Lack of sleep
» Changes in behaviour
How Can We Prevent Ourselves From Getting To This Point?
Of course there are many solutions to this problem such as speaking to a specialist, getting prescribed drugs (if the situation is very serious), or just dealing with the consequences and suffer. Although the easiest and simplest way to take some of that hypothetical weight off your shoulders is to get yourself to the gym and work with some real weight!
Several studies have shown that physical activity releases what I like to call “happy” hormones. Scientifically known as endorphins, these neurotransmitters are proven to genuinely make an individual feel good about themselves no matter what situation they’re in. Even if it is just 30 minutes of your day at low intensity, working out will definitely decrease your stress levels. When you’re in the gym or playing a sport, you don’t have time to start thinking about your presentation that is due tomorrow or the supper that you still have yet to make. The reality is that you find yourself focusing more on the importance of the movement of your body than anything else. Although it might just be for a short amount of time, physical activity gives you permission to escape from reality and actually feel weightless and free. Not only will you get time off from life, but you’ll look even hotter than you would if you spent that time stressing for something you probably don’t even have control over.
To be completely honest, I find myself stressing about a lot of useless things and have experienced many negative side effects because of it. We need to realize that taking care of our mental and physical health should be our number one priority. The rest isn’t worth it if we can’t even get ourselves to live through it. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the obstacles life has to offer, make yourself and plan and stick with it. Reserve at least one hour a day for yourself and treat your body to some “me-time”. We all deserve it. Besides, if you use this time to become fit and built, that “extra weight” on your shoulders won’t even feel heavy anymore.