The Impact of Stress On Performance
Posted on July 22 2020
I think we can all agree that 2020 has not lived up to our expectations. It’s a tumultuous election year, Covid-19 has ransacked our way of life, murder hornets are apparently a thing, and protests and riots are further putting stresses on our day-to-day life. Where does it stop? And besides the fact that gym availability is tenuous, how might all of this stress be affecting your training?
Most of us understand that much of our success in the gym or on the platform is directly related to what happens outside of the gym. Getting sufficient rest or sleep matters as does our nutrition. Often missed in this equation is our mental health. If mental health suffers, our focus drops, our enjoyment of the sport decreases and this stress even affects how our body reacts to stimulus whether it’s through training or nutrition. Regarding the nutritional component, Stanford researchers in 2018 found that when stressed, our body produces a hormone called glucocorticoids. A consistently high production of glucocorticoids actually transforms certain cells in your body into fat. This makes sense as your body see’s fat as a necessary fuel so when it senses panic, it ensures you have sufficient fuel to handle whatever may come. So, with everything happen, what is an athlete to do?
Control the Controllable
Looking at the news will make you believe that the world is in chaos and there is nothing you can do about it. A lesson I learned in the military was to worry only about that which you could control and the rest would fall into place. Look at only the things that directly affect you and your family in your daily life, and handle only that which you can affect. Does the Covid-19 outbreak in New York City directly impact your health and well-being in your town of 5,000 in the Midwest? Probably not but you can keep washing your hands and maintain some social distancing. Are there violent protests in your city putting your family or your livelihood in danger? No? Carry on then.
Cut Out the Downers
For most of us, the first thing we do when we wake up is grab our phones and click on social media. Of course, it is flooded with news of stressors around the world. Even the meme’s poke fun at things that are at its root, stressful. If you feel yourself shaking your head during your scroll or feeling drained, cut it out of your life. Why are we letting things halfway around the world affect us? Seen any murder hornets in your community? Likely not. How about a friend that just won’t stop talking about politics? Stressing you out? Tell your friend you’re busy. Cut them off for a while or quickly change the subject.
We say it all the time to friends upon parting, “take care of yourself.” But what does that actually mean? It means getting away and doing the things you love, to recharge and grow. Shut down the electronics and read a book on a Sunday afternoon. Go down to a local trail and take a walk. Research has shown that long walks outdoors, specifically those in nature, have a significant impact on our ability to relax and recharge. I get it. We’re all busy. But in most cases, our problem today will survive without the need to address it right now. If you can handle it later and you are finding yourself significantly stressed, don’t be afraid to put it off just a little while longer. Forget about it and do something for yourself to recharge. And if you can’t, change your perspective. Instead of feeling stressed over mowing your lawn, think of it as an opportunity to be outside or burn some extra calories. Throw some headphones in while you’re doing it and sing your heart out; neighbors be damned.
These social issues and our election are important. I am not suggesting that you completely ignore the events happening throughout our country. But there comes a point where the stress from these things, things that you can’t even control, starts to affect your health and well-being. And these stressors will absolutely, negatively impact your training and performance in the gym or on the platform. Listen to what your mind and body are telling you. When you’ve had enough, recognize that and shut it down. As they say, take “everything in moderation.”
As always, Live Strong. Be Strong.
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