161 hours part 4: Stress Management


by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

If we are already assuming you exercise an hour a day here, you are on the right path already! Stress is a tricky thing in that stressors can come in all different shapes and sizes, be totally different from person to person, and often we have a hard time controlling our own reactions to the stressor. Sometimes stress can just take hold of us and affect our personal and professional relationships, self-esteem and outlook, as well as our physical and mental health. I am going to go into some basic ways to help manage your stress and hopefully not only put you in the best place possible to make the most out of that time you are spending in the gym, but put you in a better position to make any day a good one.

First and foremost, have you identified what is causing the stress? If you are stressed and you are not sure why, this will make it a little more difficult to deal with. But if you have identified the stressor, then that gives you a place to start. The first thing I would ask after identifying the cause of the stress would be: can I control the stressor? Is it something that you can change? Maybe, for example, your stress is related to time. From there, the easiest thing to do would be to make yourself a schedule. Budget your time so that you know when you are going to be doing this or working on that, and how much time you will spend doing it. That way, you have taken control of the stressor and ideally will have eliminated that as a potential stressor.

If the stress still remains, then you need to ask yourself: Have I done everything I can do? If you have, and there is nothing more that you can do to change the circumstances, then you have to try to do your best to accept those circumstances and try your hand at some other stress management techniques. Now since we are kind of figuring we have 7 hours of our week dedicated to exercise, we are already utilizing one of the greatest stress management techniques out there. But here are a few other things you can also try. One thing you can do, although it can be very difficult, is take a break from the stressor. Get away from it and don’t think about it for a while, and then when you come back to it you will hopefully have a fresh perspective. Another great option is to just talk to somebody; whether it be friends, family, or professionals. One of the biggest mistakes that many of us make is thinking that we have to figure everything out by ourselves. My bet would be that most of you probably have more help available than you really believe, so don’t let pride get in the way of your own happiness.

A couple other things that you can do physically to help manage or avoid stress include some things that are well within your control. First off, eat well balanced meals. Make sure that you have the fuel and nutrients to get through a day and allow your brain to work properly. Second, make sure you get enough sleep. We have touched on sleep already, but it is very important to make sure you get adequate rest especially when you are stressed! You don’t want to exacerbate the situation by staying up all night dwelling on it. Next, you can limit your alcohol and caffeine intake. Each of these can cause further anxiety or panic attacks, which definitely is not good for stress. Finally, breathe! When stressed, sometimes all it takes is a couple deep breaths can help clear your mind.

I also wanted to touch on one of the biggest stressors out there: Money. Almost everybody goes through this at one point or another, and in some cases it is a constant stressor for a long time. Just about everything you need costs money. Housing, food, transportation, caring for your loved ones (pets included), and the majority of social events and activities. There are a couple of things to consider if money is a primary stressor. This may sound obvious, but isn’t always so easy. First and foremost, you need to live with in your means. Sure a high-rise apartment or a nice sports car may sound great; but if you can only afford the less-expensive one bedroom apartment on the other side of town and a used compact car, then that’s what you need to go with until your situation changes. Second, make a budget! Whether money is stressing you out or not, this is important. If you know that after all of your necessities are covered for the month, you have “x” amount of money for social events, or let’s even say Christmas presents in December, then you won’t look at your credit card statement and say, “Now how the heck am I going to pay that?” Which leads me to the last point I will mention: keep your credit card balances manageable. Try your best not to carry balances from month to month, because once they start to build it will snowball and then eventually go from a number that looks manageable to something that you don’t know how you’re going to pay off. If you already have an existing balance and one month an unexpected car or home repair comes up, that existing balance will make it a lot more difficult to come back from paying for an expensive repair like that.

So don’t let stress run your life, because more times than not you are in control of it. And if you can’t do anything about it, then do the best you can to manage that stress in a healthy way. While stress can be a tricky thing to deal with, it is definitely manageable and important to deal with to prevent the “snowball effect” from occurring. Try implementing a few of these things when you are stressed, and hopefully you will feel as though you are in control of the outcome.




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