On our path to becoming the best version of ourselves, there are often many road blocks. One of the most detrimental blocks of a healthy lifestyle is STRESS. Even though stress is a natural and inevitable thing, taking on too much can have some serious ramifications. Stress has several side effects to your everyday life, but can be extremely debilitating to your exercise habits.
Muscle Tension and Pain – Stress has an almost immediate effect on our muscle system, causing it to lock up and become tight, often causing pain to the body. In the short term, painful muscle tension can keep us away from exercise for periods of time which can start a viscous cycle. Exercise is one of the main ways to relieve stress, but if our muscle tension is so high to prevent us from doing what we love, we may have to find alternative solutions to our stress issues. As our body takes on too much stress, our muscles tense up to act as a shield and help prevent us from hurting ourselves. But by staying tense for long periods of time, our muscles can atrophy and result in chronic, stress-induced conditions.
Fatigue – Fatigue is something we know all too well as it is something we deal with on pretty much an everyday basis. Our body gets tired and needs to refuel. Well, stress can cause our bodies to become fatigued much sooner than normal, resulting in poor performance in the gym. Once we become fatigued during an exercise, we either shut down and stop causing us to fall well short of our goals or try to push through leaving our body susceptible to serious injury, both are outcomes I am sure none of us want.
Lack of Sleep – Stress often has sub-symptoms like restlessness and anxiety which can make getting a good night’s sleep almost impossible. And without energy from a proper night’s sleep, you can kiss a good workout goodbye. Sleep is a key component to any exercise routine because it helps muscles grow and become stronger, achieving the goals we seek. Sleep allows are body to refuel, replenish, and function at its optimal level while preparing for whatever we throw at it next.
Lack of Motivation – Often times when you are stressed, your mind is overwhelmed by many things, not allowing you to focus or concentrate. Motivation is focus. Without focus you cannot motivate yourself to push through exercise barriers. When your mental state is consumed with all the things stressing you out, the last thing you are thinking is how to get your daily exercise in.
Change in Eating Habits – Stress can have a major effect on how we eat and can cover both ends of the spectrum depending on the person. One person may fall into an overeating habit because of how they try to deal with stress. They begin to find comfort in food and feel like the only way to take their mind off issues is to eat. As you can imagine, this is a huge setback for our quest to become the healthiest version of ourselves. On the other hand, another person may begin to under eat. This can be just as damaging to our goals and unsafe. For someone that under eats, they lose all appetite and do not allow their body to take in the essential nutrients needed for proper function. This can become even worse if this person still tries to push themselves through exercise. As the body is not working at its highest level, serious injury can occur and in some cases could be life-threatening.
Change in Social Habits – A common occurrence as a result from stress is a change in a person’s social habits. This usually involves the person beginning or increasing use of tobacco, alcohol, and/or drugs. Not only are the obvious lifelong health issues a concern, but the use of these non-natural stimulants can really hinder exercise performance. Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs can cause serious problems in both the central nervous system and respiratory system. Both of which can prevent our body from performing at the levels needed to move towards reaching the goals we set.
Depression – Each of the effects above all are terrible in their own right but depression is the result of all of them combined. This is often the point where seeking some help from a doctor could be very beneficial. Depression can be a chronic illness that begins with a little stress that gets overlooked. Many of us know that exercise is addicting. We love the euphoric feeling after an amazing workout and when we are stripped of that “drug” (exercise) we can feel incomplete. We crave it, we need it and stress keeps us from achieving it –If we let it.
If you are experiencing high levels of stress, explore stress management strategies like increased physical activity, meditation, or breathing exercises. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and avoid tobacco use and limit caffeine and alcohol consumption.