Dealing with stress.
Ugh! Last week was a bit of a sod. The student house that I rent out was being re-wired and the girls who live there had to be put up in hostels. Zoe and I had to go in to chisel a load of plaster off the walls of one of the rooms – and that stuff gets everywhere. Throw kids, dealing with contractors, speaking to the council, staff, rugby coaching, in laws, our own house beginning to disintegrate, a busy gym, my own training, Zoe’s cold and a whole bunch of other stuff connected to running businesses into the mix and it’s a miracle that I’m still sane. Well . . . Sort of sane anyway.
As is the way, when the shit hits the fan, the last thing you may feel like doing is giving yourself a damn good seeing to in the gym.Which is a shame because a workout may well be the very thing you need.
When you are subjected to stress the body releases a wonder hormone called adrenaline. It’s pretty amazing stuff adrenaline. It will give you superhuman strength, morphine levels of natural painkilling chemicals, reactions like a startled cat, the ability to stop bleeding – even the bleeds associated with limb loss, acute mental focus and plays an important role in the orgasm!
Providing the adrenaline is used up in fighting a sabre toothed tiger or running from wolves through a forest at night or picking up the car that has trapped a loved one beneath it then it does no harm. It might leave you a little shaky and detached from reality but there will be no ill effects.
The problems come when the adrenaline isn’t used up. What happens then is that your cortisol levels begin to creep up. Cortisol is a bastard and the evil, arch-enemy, end-of-level baddie in your quest to buffdom.
Like adrenaline it’s released by the adrenal glands in the kidneys but, unlike adrenaline, there is not much up-side to cortisol. Cortisol’s primary role is to increase blood glucose levels to provide fuel to your muscles and brain during a stressful situation.
Dave’s Gym loves a list, so here are several.
What having raised cortisol levels will do to you.
- It will raise your blood sugar levels (which will make you fat).
- It will suppress your immune system (so you will get ill, not be able to train and get fat).
- It will decrease bone formation (which is bad. Probably.)
- It will give you insomnia (so you will be tired, unable to train and then get fat).
- It will make you fat.
- It will cause your testosterone levels to plummet (so you will not want to train or have sex with things and you will get fat).
- It will decrease your liver’s ability to detoxify stuff (which is almost certain, in some unknown and complicated way, to make you fat).
- It will increase inflammation (which means you won’t recover from training as quickly so you won’t be able to train as often so you will get fat).
What can cause your cortisol levels to raise
- Caffeine (dammit).
- Lack of sleep (double dammit)
- Intense exercise (bollocks)
- Stress (yup, loads of this)
- Commuting (ditto)
What can you do to reduce your cortisol levels
- Supplementing your diet with magnesium, zinc, Omega 3 and vitamin C.
- Music therapy (although I fear this means Whalesong and Enya not Slayer and Pig Destroyer)
- Massage (happy ending optional)
- Laughing and being happy ( bah, humbug)
- Crying (apparently you feel better after a good cry but as a knuckle-dragging silver-backed caveman I wouldn’t know)
- Tea (a nice cuppa and a sit down can work wonders)
- Sex (just try not to spill your tea)
- Exercise (yeah, I know this contradicts other advice but get over it)
So in conclusion: Life is stressful. Exercise can help. So can sleep. As can fruit. If in doubt have sex with anything that will stay still for long enough.
Yours in karmic bliss,