What is Stress &  How to Deal With Distress Like a Pro

What is Stress & How to Deal With Distress Like a Pro

In this article we'll review the facts surrounding stress and how to recover more effectively. But first off - why would you want to control your stress levels at all?

To kick things off let’s make a clear distinction here between stress and distress. Stress is a normal physiological response to changed conditions (either inside or outside) and prepares your body to better deal with those changed conditions. It is a necessary function. Without it, we wouldn’t survive or evolve. Distress, on the other hand, is a state where stress has gotten out of hand. Either it is produced incorrectly in response to a stimulus (i.e. mental breakdowns over spilled ice cream) or it is prolonged and unresolved (chronic stress).

Prolonged and out of hand stress wreaks havoc in the body and brain. 

As for metabolism - distress is one of the most harmful problems that could slow down your fat loss or bodybuilding goal. You can correct nutrition and physical activity in one day - these are what I call simple actions. But you can’t just switch off the distress, especially when it is a product of a negative feedback loop or habit. Distress untreated causes the same kind of hormonal problems that sleep disorders do. It is one of the reasons why people lose their sleep and the cycle feeds itself. Distress can cause both increased and decreased hunger as well as emotional eating, decreased motivation, inflammation and insulin resistance, absence of willpower, fat-storing as visceral fat, slowed cognitive function,  decreased memory and learning, mood disorders, and all kinds of unwanted things that so often lead to downward spiral.

Basically it affects everything from a physiological perspective (like hormones) and cognitive behaviours (like eating habits). That is why distress needs to be addressed & controlled whereas stress just needs simple actions like exercise and nutrition.

What are the practical ways to deal with distress?

  1. Analyse the situation.

    Stop and write down everything that affects your everyday life, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Don’t leave anything out. If it suits you better - start a journal, I personally found this to be super impactful. It gave me the opportunity to release thoughts onto the paper. Investigating prompts questions such as What causes what? Is the bad sleep the problem of your stress or is it the other way around? What was I thinking prior to the distress? What do I habitually do after an experience? Did I react or respond?

  2. Deal with the cause of stress first, not the symptoms.

    We typically overemphasise the importance of recovery, but it is not always the solution. Sometimes there is a problem that can and needs to be dealt with, but for some reason, we avoid it and say we’ll start on monday. It might be difficult to face some things or think that someday we will be better prepared. Nope, this never works. Not for bad relationships, smoking, work, or money problems. They grow like cancer, continuing to take more and more of you daily. The earlier you face it, the sooner you’ll start the recovery. Start with the first step, and you’ll be fine. We’re made to survive & thrive and if you weren’t capable you wouldn’t be challenged.

  3. Ditch the things that drain your energy like smoking, alcohol, toxic people, and staying up late.

    You’d be amazed at how much better your energy levels will be. There’s two major ideas you need to reject if you want salvation…1) there’s no such thing as too much stress, there is only too little recovery, as tooted by a an emotionally disturbed “I can’t be hurt” perturbator. 2) Good stress relieves bad stress. Sorry to cut it but stress is stress. Your body doesn’t know if you’re going for a 1 rep max lift or fighting a lion. Your body will release cortisol & adrenaline to keep you alive. 

However, at the same time there is no amount of stress you couldn’t handle if you had enough time, treatment and nutrients to recover. Essentially stress and recovery must be in balance; you don’t want either one too much. Too little stress and too much recovery means you aren’t evolving as a person and using your potential. This is where having the appropriate training routine & nutrition regimen comes in. Let’s go over how you can do that.

a). Leave everything secondary.

Focus your energy and time by prioritising what’s most important. This is one of the essential skills to learn for anybody, but a difficult one. What are the vital things in your life right now? Focus on those. Everything else must take the back seat. And recovery time is one of those priorities, if never prior to, at least from now on, you literally deserve it.

  1. Time - learn to manage it wisely.

    We are such poor time managers in this society. We are torn to a hundred different places and actions at once. Thank you internet and the 7 second attention span you gave everyone…

    Daily, you probably go through your Facebook feed or email box as you read an article like this or have 2-3 different screens you glance at. Don’t let all your everyday mundane things manage you. You have to plan your time ahead of time. One way is to block off your time - try taking 30 minute blocks for everything you do and plan in such a way that you might need 2-4 blocks depending on activity.

    Another method is fragmenting. This can help with daunting projects that seem larger than life. If you have bigger things to take care of, don’t try to do them at once or wait for a good opportunity. Separate them into fragments and do them one at a time. Perhaps that’s 30 minutes or 1 hour every day throughout the 12 weeks you have to finish the project. If you’re anything like myself or my friends in university, you did, or are doing, the complete opposite of this.

    One other method is to never overlap things, but only do them in succession. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everything. Basically it is anti-multitasking. Only start the next thing when you have finished the previous one. Think as if you’re building a long chain and you need to complete a link before going on to the next one. Be the one thing that unites them all. I personally find this to be incredible and expands my attention span. It’s great mental & physical discipline. I started by reading every caption of every post I saw on my feed prior to scrolling to the next post. I found this to limit time wasted and actually improve how much I got out of the time I spent on instagram.

    Learning to be proactive, not reactive is a skill like everything else and needs time and effort to be mastered. But it doesn’t need to be complicated.

  2. Find your Zen & Flow State. This is something I am currently studying and practising. I was never a big fan of “doing nothing” but I’ve come to learn you really are doing something, something remarkable at that. Very quickly I can calm myself down and recharge. Dr Huberman taught me that meditation is actually Non Sleep Deep Rest. That’s why when your practice you feel restored and fresh. The point is to find the thing that restores your energy. We’re not talking about relaxing, watching television, or drinking a couple of beers with your buddies at a local pub. Those things won’t necessarily restore your energy, in fact they drain your future energy.  If you’re opposed to meditation you can try reading, spending quality time with a loved one, a hobby like woodwork, listening to peaceful music (better without words) or taking a walk in nature. I’d recommend athletes or sports fans to read “The Mindful Athlete” by George Mumford.

If you want to give meditation a try it’s really quite simple. Think of it just as a breathing exercise. Your only goal is to concentrate on your breathing, and slow it down. Every breath from beginning to end should take 10-12 seconds. Do this every day for a couple of minutes and then add onto it. It has been proven to have remarkable effects on one’s nervous system and stress levels and improve performance.

  1. Take care of your body. It is an old cliche that a healthy mind needs a healthy body. But it is true, nonetheless. Nutrition, hydration, sleep, rest, chronic diseases, physical activity - those all need to be addressed. 

Okay, we can talk about stress and recovery for what probably feels like hours. It is an important and extensive topic. But the point here isn’t to teach the subject, but to give an overview and main principles to work with. To summarise the most important points:

Stress is necessary; distress needs to be dealt with.

If distress has an exact cause, deal with this first.

Stress needs an equal amount of recovery. You don’t want to get rid of stress, because it is the power that keeps you evolving and moving forward.

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