Our bodies benefit from stress in small doses, but being in a constant state of flight or fight brings upon a laundry list of consequences, including lackluster workouts and poor results. For starters, chronic stress lowers anabolic hormones (such as testosterone and insulin) that stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth, and increases catabolic hormones (such as cortisol and progesterone) that contribute to muscle degeneration. Translation? Stress can actually cause a decrease in muscle mass.
Is this you? Stress manifests in different forms and in a variety of cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioural ways. Negative effects of chronic stress could be anxiety, nervous habits such as nail biting or pacing, fatigue, irritability, frequent illness, digestive issues, and even loss of sex drive.
What to do: Find an outlet. Journaling, taking walks in nature, creating realistic to-do lists, talking with a friend or therapist, yoga, and meditation can combat chronic stress. In fact, expert yogi and healer Julie Piatt, believes that “meditation is the single most powerful practice for balancing and aligning one’s life.” Julie suggests a simple yet powerful technique called “follow your breath.” Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position (for 5-30 minutes) with the spine aligned with the lower back, heart, and crown of the head. Follow this breathing cycle: close the eyes and inhale the breath slowly and deeply, at the top of the inhale, pause, exhale slowly and completely, and then at the bottom of the exhale pause again.