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April 25, 2019

Stress 101

by Michael Hughes

Recently, I’ve been blessed to connect with more of our new members, as they enter the Gymnazo community. As we go through their fitness consultations, I am often asked what they can do to improve their health.  More specifically, if they don’t have time to do much, where should they focus their time/energy in order to have the biggest impact?    

The more I learn about all the chemical, biological and biomechanical processes of the human body, the more I’ve come to believe that the single biggest change you can make to improve your fitness is: Reduce your stress.    

I believe stress is the biggest thief of our physical (how we look), mental (how we think) and spiritual (how we feel) health.  In a recent Gallup poll, 8 out of 10 Americans said they were afflicted with stress. Only 4% of those surveyed said they don’t experience stress in their lives. Those numbers are horrifying.  

We all experience stress differently, but it’s important to recognize that our society thrives on stress, and we have all been programmed over time to live with more persistent stress than ever before.    

Looking at American culture, we are surrounded with stressors:  

· We are collectively suffering from adrenaline addiction.  

· Our TV and entertainment programming relies on stress to create the drama and appeal of the storylines we consume. Even the rapid changes of scenes and shots create stress in our brains.  

· Putting pressure on our children at earlier ages to start performing, competing and being in higher pressure learning environments.  

· The technology advances that put pressure on us to always be learning, in order to stay ahead of the curve or at least not fall behind.  

· Our technology addiction and constantly being “on” and accessible. This is made worse with the alerts, ringers and notifications we get to remind us how fast the world of communication is moving. 

· The pressure to be busy all the time, to fill up life so much we don’t know how to unwind.  

· Social media comparisons, always feeling like we aren’t achieving the results we “should” be achieving, whether it’s how we look, the vacations we take or the lifestyle we experience. 

· The scarcity mindset that permeates the culture, making us believe there is not enough time, money or love to go around. 

· …. (the list goes on.)    

So if you want to put your health first, or at least make it a priority, we need to look at stress seriously. If we were meeting to do a fitness consultation and you were to ask me how to reduce stress, I’d give you a list like the one below and ask you to find 2-3 things you could commit to doing, which would reduce your stress:    

· Sleep 1 more hour per night.  

· Start meditating (even 3 minutes per day.)  

· Start each morning with 5 deep breaths, and go to bed with deep breathing.

· Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake. 

· Start a gratitude practice.  

· Get outside and intentionally enjoy nature twice per week.  

· Don’t multi-task when you eat (including watching TV) and be mindful in your eating.  

· Book 1 event per week that you makes you play and have fun.  

· Laugh.  

· Remove the word “should” from your vocabulary.  

· Make time for a friend night and reconnect with people who bring you positive energy. 

· Work out or move intentionally each day.  

· Text or write one person each day something you appreciate about them. 

· Etc.    

Through small, practical actions, there are endless opportunities to reduce stress in our lives and help us shift out of a flight/fight mindset and get back to a more healthy state of mind.    

My challenge to us all is to take stress seriously in our lives and start with small actions to start to prioritize our health.    

We only get one life. One body. One brain. Let’s maximize this gift of life and not let our society’s fast pace steal from us the opportunity to live life to it’s fullest and recognize our potential.    

You matter, your life has meaning and you deserve to enjoy life, and not simply survive it.   

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