I've said it before and I'll say it again. Going to SET, exercising, taking the time to take care of you is good for your health...not just physical but EMOTIONAL health!
Watch the video below and find out why Robert Sapolsky is on my short-list of people I would have a beer with if I could choose anyone in the world. The guy is a literal, certified genius and has done 30+ years of research on stress and depression in humans and other non-human primates.
The fact of the matter is...we humans live in a world of constant, moderate stress. It comes from nearly every aspect of our lives. From our workplaces, our bosses, our in-laws, our friends, our government, our taxes, random strangers in traffic...the list goes on and on.
It's all stress that is INVENTED by our cultural norms and societal hierarchy. It DOESN'T exist in a world without titles and promotions...success and failure constructs...honor and tradition.
This time of year can be stressful with taxes looming, planning for vacations or summer, bosses laying out new goals, kids starting new sports or activities and just being more active during these warmer months. Stress can overcome us this time of year and we often hear this question:
"How do I use exercise as a stress reliever? Right now exercise is the first thing I drop when I become stressed!"
If you're asking yourself this question right now, your biggest struggle is one of association. Your mindset is ironically backwards! ;-) In fact, you should be working out MORE when you're stressed.
The response from your body is to release hormones to cope with the stressors but this can actually lead to a compounding of your mood. Simply put a stressed psyche is poor at making decisions...which leads to more stress as things don't get done.
So here's the science behind exercise as a stress reliever:
Exercise increases endorphin levels:
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that allow your brain to function efficiently. Neurotransmitters are what make it possible for your brain's synapses to fire. If your brain can't fire the synapses it can't help you to stay focused, organized and on-task. This leads to poor cognition and more stress as you can't seem to accomplish the tasks that are putting you in this mood in first place.
Exercise decreases cortisol levels:
Cortisol is your "stress hormone" and is more commonly associated with the "flight or fight" response mechanism. As you probably know that response has ONE purpose. Survival! So when this response is triggered your body literally shuts down it's other cognitive (and even physical processes) to direct energy toward running or defending yourself. Remember that your body can't distinguish between what is physical stress and what is mental stress (we create that one) so it treats everything as physical stress. If you need creativity, planning, or any other number of higher cognitive processes they won't be available when "flight or fight" is triggered. You need exercise to calm this response so you can use the higher power of your brain again!
Start slow...don't just react.
Remind yourself that without clarity you can't accomplish your tasks...help others...cope with emotions. In order to gain that clarity you have to move and use your body. When you feel stressed instead of obsessing over what needs to get done, go outside. Go for a walk, go for a run, GO TO YOUR SET. It will help you to mitigate the "flight or fight" mechanism going haywire inside your body. You'll find after your physical activity that you can think better. So when you get back, make your priority list of things to direct your attention to (whether they be tasks needing accomplishment, a concept that needs refinement, a project that needs organization and planning or emotions to address) and place the most difficult thing at the top of the list. Once that gets done everything else you need to accomplish the rest of the day will seem easier and easier.
What about the zebras???
Zebras don't have this...they have survival. Live or Die! There is a lion chasing them...it kills them or they live to see another day. THAT'S IT! When it's over...so is the stress.
So how do we get out of this constant fear...this weight bearing down on us all day? Well we don't...but we can train our bodies (literally) to deal better with it. When you come to your SET you are mimicking the act of running from a predator. Your body reacts by pumping out those hormones to counteract the stress induced. You've just re-introduced the peak and valley of REAL stress response.
So, as you come to Motiv8 to run from your lions (whatever they may be)...you walk away with an efficiently tuned hormone production system ready to battle the stress that threatens you on a daily basis.