As an exercise physiologist, my take on stress is a little different. Instead of trying to reduce or minimize stress (good luck with that), understand how you can affect the chemical physiology of stress through movement and eating strategies. Stress results in a physiological response and we can train the body to raise it’s threshold for stress as well as to recover from stress more quickly and efficiently. Here are 5 quick tips to get you started:
1. Perform several short movement breaks. Several times during the day, take a few minutes to go up and down a couple of flights of stairs, go outside for a walk around building, or do 3-5 PowerHouse Hit the Deck™ cards. Short burst of intense physical activity burn off stress hormones and release endorphins – the bliss molecules – and restore balance.
2. Take frequent snack breaks. Eat several small meals throughout the day to manage blood glucose levels. Why? When blood glucose levels get too low it puts stress on the body, sends it into survival mode and we get “Hangry”. Hungry + Angry = Hangry. Hangry is NOT good. We become impatient, critical, and easily pushed over the edge.
3. Minimize caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. It’s easy to reach for these when feeling stressed out. In reality all of these substances release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which actually increase physiological stress on the body.
4. Don’t overeat at lunch. Many people skip breakfast, work all morning, are famished by the time lunch rolls around and then eat an enormous meal. Putting too much glucose into the system at one time adds stress to the body in that any glucose that greater levels of insulin must be released and any glucose that can’t be used is stored in the fat cells. Not only is eating too much at once a stress on the body, carrying around extra fat also places stress on the system.
5. If you can’t take an official movement break during a long meeting or conference call, you can still move your body. You can still do some stretching to release muscular tension and stress. Reach forward to stretch your upper back and shoulder. Lift each ear away from the shoulders to stretch your neck. Cross one foot over the opposite knee and lean forward slightly – this one stretches the hips and gluteus muscles. Bring the hands behind the back and gently lift to stretch the chest.