Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beat Stress- ride your bike!

They say that stress is an inevitable part of life.  But is it?  You may not be able to eliminate stress, but you can surely manage/control it.  Although stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life's experiences, there is no doubt in my mind that stress is a silent killer.  Your body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  This rush of hormones increases your heart rate and breathing rate and blood flow to your muscles, heart and other organs.  The increase in blood flow also leads to increased blood pressure and risk of stroke and/or heart attack. If the stressor doesn't go away, the response continues. Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy.  If you're under chronic stress (like daily stress from work), your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge and lead to risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  The rush of hormones can also affect/upset your digestive system thanks to the increase of stomach acid.  Muscles also become tense (to protect themselves) when stressed.  This can lead to headaches, back pain and shoulder aches.

If stress continues for a long time, a man's testosterone levels can drop.  This can lead to erectile dysfunction, impotence and/or sperm production.  It can also increase risk of prostate infection.  In woman, stress can affect the menstrual cycle and magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.

When your body produces high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, your skin can also become abnormally oily.  This can trigger eczema, psoriasis and rosacea outbreaks.  Stress makes it harder for your skin to recover from irritation and skin damage.  These skin outbreaks then add to your increased stress/anxiety levels and lead to a seemingly endless cycle.  Studies have also linked the stress hormone cortisol with cravings for sugar.  Sugar intake is probably the #1 cause of skin acne.  Study's show that students incur more skin breakouts during high stress times such as during exams.  An increase in the male hormone androgens is the culprit- especially in women.

Chronic stress can also lead to insomnia and sleeping disorders.  Ever wonder why you continue to wake up at 2-3am even though you go to bed at 10pm?  It's a known fact that stress leads to anxiety and depression.

Losing your hair?  Stress is also known to play a role in triggering hair loss in the autoimmune condition called alopecia areata.  I've known some men/women to have grown hair after they retired from work.

Heartburn, stomach cramps, diarrhea can all be cause by or worsened by stress.  In particular, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is thought to be fueled in part by stress.  Ever wonder why you have to go to the porta-pot before a big race or competition even though you went to the bathroom before you left your house?

I could go on and on regarding the negative affect that stress has on your body.  In short, stress is a silent doubt about it.  So, what can we do to combat stress?    Before I give you a list of top stress reducers the #1 thing you can do to combat stress is- avoid it.  That's if you can.  If your stress is job related, find a new job.  Yeah, I know it's a PITA to have to go through the hiring process..not to mention the stress/anxiety.  But, the job search stress/anxiety is short-lived.  If your stress is family related, that you can't avoid (since you only have one family), find a way to work it out.

Here's a list of the top stress reducers:

Eat healthy- reduce sweets and fatty foods. i.e. junk food.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine- I gave up caffeine a year ago.  I drink decaf coffee.  After a while, it tastes just like caffeinated coffee.  That's if you buy the good decaf coffee. Drinking coffee (or caffeinated beverages) will put you on a roller coaster of ups/downs all day long.  Even if it doesn't, the day you have to go without caffeine (for whatever reason) you'll feel like crap.
Have an alcoholic drink- I'm not promoting alcoholism but nothing wrong with a nice glass of wine, beer, whiskey, etc. from time to time.  Just don't drink in excess.
Visualization- aka daydreaming.  I can't tell you how many times I've been in business meetings where I was able to look outside at nature: birds, animals, trees, flowers, etc. which makes me relax.  I've also daydreamed during work about being in the Florida Keys on vacation with a rum runner drink in hand.
Take a nap- it works, even if it's only a 1-2 hr. cat nap.  Just don't do it at work.  Getting 7-8 hrs. of good sleep each night also works. 
Get a pet- get a dog or a cat.  Pets reduce stress...until they sh$t or puke all over your carpet.  Or, when they eat something they shouldn't and you have to rush them to the emergency vet and spend $4,000 to get it cut out of them.  Been there done that with two dogs.
Chew gum- there's proof that chewing gum reduces cortisol levels.  They say that peppermint gum can improve cognition and mental sharpness. 
Meditation/Yoga/Accupuncture/Massage/ DeepBreathing Techniques- like exercise, I've linked these activities together because they produce endorphins.  I haven't tried meditation/yoga/accupuncture but I have had deep tissue massages and they're wonderful- albeit expensive.  If I could afford it, I'd have a daily massage.  Deep breathing seems to work too.
Go fishing- it doesn't have to be fishing.  It can be another hobby that relaxes you.  They didn't create the saying, "The worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work" for nothing.
Aromatherapy- they say it reduces stress but can't say I've ever tried burning incense.  Although I know when smoking an occasional cigar it relaxes me..which in turn reduces stress.  Just like drinking, smoking is not a healthy alternative to stress reduction.
Self-hypnosis- can't say I've ever tried it.  They say it works.  I'll have to look into this one.
Watch a movie /Read a book- Just make sure the movie or book is relaxing.
Manage your time- poor time management causes stress.
Don't sweat the small stuff- if you've got a slow driver in front of you or there is a long line at the store- deal with's a fact of life.  Accept you can't control the small stuff in life.
Keep work at work- don't bring work home.  Stay late at work if  you have to.
Take time off from work- if you have vacation time at work- use it.  Work is one of the #1 stressors.
Take a chill pill- nothing wrong with seeing the doctor to get an anti-stress/anxiety med to help you through some tough stressful times.
Don't worry about things you can't control- like not sweating the small stuff.  If worrying won't help/change the outcome of something/anything- why worry?
Exercise- go ride your bike.  It's a scientific fact that exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Listen to music- it definitely works for me to reduce stress.  I like to listen to music before work, after work, and before bedtime.  I also like to listen to music when I exercise.

Power ON! Coach Rob

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