As a wife, business owner, personal trainer, homeowner and dog mum it can sometimes be stressful to manage everything all at once! For me I’ve got it easy too, there are plenty of others out there that have a plethora of different roles on top of those that I’ve just mentioned.
Now for those of you that know me or view our social pages on a regular basis, know that my time out (or “Lou’s time” as I like to call it) are my walks with Bernie. Not only does this give me an hour or so a day to myself to try and just switch off, but more recently I have started to make an effort to have that hour away from my phone (or work).
Life these days predominantly revolves around iPhones or androids, we can’t get away from them. Our whole lives are on those phones from contacts, our diary, work emails, thousands of photos, we can even pay for petrol or our shopping with them! Every time I pop to Tesco, I scan my clubcard using my phone! Now I’m not saying they are a bad thing (far from it), a lot of our business comes from social media or through our website and we need them to keep in regular contact with our clients. However these days (as a nation) we are never bored, never sat with nothing to do. There is always something going on that can occupy our minds every minute of the day (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc) and it’s normally of someone else broadcasting their own lives online. That hour off for me now is really refreshing, it allows me to let my mind wander. So it’s no coincidence that the majority of our best ideas for work come to us when we are out walking with the dog.
So what does this have to do with stress? It just seems I’m having a bit of a rant about smartphones.
The body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for all the involuntary functions of the human body e.g. the beating of the heart, pupil dilation etc. Now the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are part of the ANS, The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) controls homeostasis (or balance) and the body at rest. Basically it’s the body’s “rest and digest” function. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat and is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. This causes tension, increase heart rate and adrenaline. Now generally on a day by day basis we should have peaks and troughs of both however we are now becoming more and more sympathetic in our lives as we don’t give ourselves the downtime we need to recover.
This is where the smartphone now comes in to play, any free time we have were on the phone, staring at a bright screen, with lots of flashing lights, notifications, videos, etc and our minds are then occupied on that. A great example is at night when you’re going to bed, if I start to read a book in bed I’m asleep before I’ve finished the page, can’t keep my eyes open. However on my phone, I can quickly scan through Instagram, check out a few stories, then my emails, haven’t looked on Facebook for a while, better do that too!!! Next thing I’ve been staring at my screen for 30 minutes and I’ve got to be up in 6 hours.
Which leads nicely on to sleep!! Now sleep has a massive part to play when discussing stress. It affects mental performance, eating, training rate, recovery rate, mood! On average you should be aiming to get at least 7 hours a night. I know for many people this can be tricky, especially for parents whose children may not sleep through the night. But sleep is vital to let the body recover and repair itself, lack of it causes the body to become stressed. I love my sleep, although I’m up normally about 4.30am/5am I will try to make sure I’m in bed for 10pm. However like I said it’s not always that easy, there may be things that get in the way. So it’s making sure on those evenings that you have had a bad night that you make yourself aware of it and don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling particularly drained that day.
As stated previously sleep can affect your mental state, you may find yourself getting short with people and find the smallest thing is ticking you off, however, all these external factors can contribute to you becoming more stressed. So now your body is stressed due to lack of sleep, you’re feeling stressed because everyone’s annoying you and then you start stressing because you’re aware that you’re stressed!!! Wow, and I’ve not even mentioned anything about training yet.
Ok, so how can we help improve on this?
Quite simply, is it worth it? Will it benefit you in any way if you stress about that work meeting you have later? Or the fact that your husband forgot to put the washing on! It’s not letting those external factors get to you, if it’s out of your control then the only thing can do is control how you feel about those situations.
This is even more relevant when looking at your training and fitness goals. It has taken years of experience to make me realise that it’s actually ok not to want to train every day and listen to what my body is telling me. If I am absolutely wacked, had a bad night’s sleep, a long day at work or I’m just generally feeling hormonal and miserable, is going to the gym and attempting a heavy weights session really going to benefit me? Sometimes the consequences of doing too much are always out way doing too little. Now that doesn’t mean I’m giving you the green light to miss training but you need to just ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 how much do you want to train today? Anything over a 5, crack on. If its anything lower ask yourself why you feel like this? Would it be better to maybe just go for a walk instead, or a swim? Just because you won’t be a sweaty mess at the end of it doesn’t mean it’s not doing you the world of good.
Dr Mike Israetel (a good one to follow on Instagram) always talks about your maximum recoverable volume (MRV). Which basically means the amount of training you can do and still recover from. So if you’ve done 3 weights sessions, 3 high-intensity sessions plus a couple of runs in a week, have you recovered in time to start training again the next week? If your answer is no then maybe you’re exceeding your MRV. Being tired is absolutely fine and natural however is it helping you achieve everything you want? If you’re too tired to train one week because you’ve been killing it for 6 weeks in a row may be having a deload week or doing some restoration work may help? As I said earlier the body needs to rest in order to adapt and improve and I can’t tell you how good I feel after listening to my body and giving it the rest it needs.