When stressed it’s critical that you learn how to tune in and listen to your body. It’s so easy to ignore the signals and just keep doing what you think you ‘should’ do, but the body is extremely wise so if you’re feeling extra tired, more bloated than usual or you’ve got a random niggle that just won’t go away, chances are the body is trying to tell you it needs attention.
It can be extremely hard to give your body what it needs if that need is different to what you usually do and what you think you ‘should’ do. At these times just stop for a moment and ask yourself, “What is most important to me right now?” Let’s face it, the reason most of us exercise is to get or keep our bodies looking the way we want, but when you’re highly stressed hard exercise can actually have the opposite effect. So if going all out and working your butt off is most important to you then by all means go ahead and do that, but if indeed having the body you desire takes higher priority and the body is telling you to slow down, then slow down you must.
The best exercise/classes to do when stressed very much depends on the level of stress you are experiencing and how your body is responding to that. This is why it’s so important to tune in because we are all different at different times. If what you usually do isn’t working, firstly perhaps continue with that but bring it down a notch – either with intensity during the session or frequency throughout the week. Maybe you could swap one hard session for something of a lower intensity initially, like a walk or swim. If that still doesn’t get you the results you desire then dial it back some more.
Yoga is a great addition to your regime, particularly restorative yoga, as it helps to calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is over activated when stressed. Basically anything that is lower impact and doesn’t cause you to over exert yourself is ideal when highly stressed– you still want to be moving, just not at the upper end of the intensity scale until the body restores itself.
Of course it’s what we do in combination with exercise that makes the real difference, so make sure you plan your workouts in advance so you can couple it with the correct nutrition and rest to balance out your efforts and ensure you receive maximum gains.
Again, this depends on your level of stress and how your body is responding to it. Exercise releases endorphins which can be great for stress management, but it also releases the hormone cortisol. In the less stressed body, consistent progressive exercise will help the body deal better with physical stresses and the need to release cortisol, but when highly stressed it’s already in excess in the body so can have a detrimental effect on your training efforts.
Higher intensity and longer duration exercise will cause more cortisol to be released, so stick to low- moderate activities for less than one hour. As mentioned previously, integrating yoga and meditation into your regime is critical for calming down the sympath etic nervous system and the unnecessary release of the stress hormones (namely cortisol). It can be hard to take a step back, but keep the end game in mind and remember what is truly important to you, and before you know it your body will be operating at its optimum and your performance will shift to a whole new level.