Stress is probably the most overlooked variable when we talk about training and recovery. If you do not learn to manage your stressors effectively you run the risk of not properly recovering from previous training sessions. Also, you won't have the energy to execute a proper workout. Stress is all around us and everyone has his or her own unique set of stressors to handle daily.
Get Enough Sleep/Rest
The biggest side affect from too much stress is reduced sleep. Sleep is the single most important routine that we must get right. Most people go to bed stressed and wake up tired, which is a result of cortisol working in reverse. You should wake with elevated cortisol and go to bed with a reduced cortisol level.
Hacks for Better Sleep
- Turn off cell phones and television at least 1 HOUR before bed. These electronic devices emit a blue light that has been shown to reduce the production of melatonin in your body. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm, which is vital to our sleep schedule. Don’t sabotage your sleep to check a work e-mail that you can see in the morning.
- Do not consume caffeine 4-6 HOURS priorto bed. The exact number is dependent on the subject’s tolerance to caffeinated beverages. Reducing the overall consumption of caffeine is also an important factor in improving quality of sleep. Too much caffeine will drain your adrenal glands, which causes fatigue and drowsiness throughout the day. I recommend a maximum of 24oz of coffee per day.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. It is important to have your circadian rhythm in a healthy, consistent pattern. Go to bed at the same time every night, even on holidays or weekends. Ideally you should fall asleep within 20 minutes after you get in bed.
Aim for a Healthy Work/Home Life Balance
The rat race mentality of our society builds stress consistently over time. If you do not manage stress from work effectively then you run the risk of hurting your gains at the gym. Reduced energy and motivation commonly occur from being burnt out at work.
Hacks for Work Balance
- Don’t bring work home with you. Leave work at work. Pick a time in the evening to turn off your accessibility from work related issues. Everyone needs a mental decompress from the rigors of work. You will be more productive when you are fresh mentally, and this is a great way to work towards that.
- Engage in a hobby or interest on a regular basis. It is a basic human need to pursue our natural interests and desires. Find something you are into and make it a priority to devote time to it in your schedule. If you do not have any hobbies and need one, look around your local neighborhood for workshops, events, or open houses. Be proactive in finding something you enjoy.
- Keep a schedule and stick to it. Creating a weekly schedule with everything mapped out will reduce stress and anxiety greatly. Make sure you stick to your schedule and include your hobbies and rest times in your schedule. Of course having some variability is important for major events, but try not to deviate too much from your original schedule.
Stay Centered and Mindful
Many of us spend way too much time worrying about events that are in the future. The anxiety can stem from a predetermined event or worrying about a want in the future. Either way this anxiety causes stress, which will definitely affect your workouts.
Hacks for Mindfulness
- Meditate daily. Simply put, meditation is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself. There are several meditation apps available and resources online if you are unfamiliar with the practice of meditation. It is useful to find a quiet place for at least 15 minutes a day.
- Live in the moment. Another simple philosophy that is easier in theory than in practice. Enjoy nature, take a walk, inhale a deep breath of fresh air, or observe the natural happenings in life. Being completely present in the moment is the goal, but it will be work. Small goals are important, try and live in the moment for 10 minutes at a time and work your way up
- Be grateful. Just look around you and be proud of everything you have accomplished. Having a sense of self-pride will melt away the unfounded worries you may have about the future. You have done a lot for yourself, I am sure, so know that you will accomplish more and patience is a virtue earned through practice.