Your body doesn’t know the difference between work stress and workout stress - and its not its job to differentiate this. It's YOUR job to keep your stress levels balanced - regardless of where the stressors are coming from. Sometimes that may mean taking away from something that's "good" in the right context, like training hard, until your you can get your stress in other areas of your life under control.
Now keep in mind stress isn’t automatically bad. In fact, we need a little stress to get our cortisol pumping. Cortisol helps us survive in tough situations, and helps us with our drive and stamina. BUT, if we are in a chronic state of stress that’s when we can start having problems.
Your body produces cortisol both in a stressful work situation, during an argument or during an intense workout. There’s no difference in “good stress” or “bad stress” to your body. It’s all in the dose and how you handle it.
The problem with this is when we don’t counterbalance this stress. We jump into 4-5 HIIT classes a week and then rush to our intense and stressful jobs. We end the workday with a tough sweat session and then battle traffic during our commute home, leaving ourselves DROWNING in stress.
Then, we wonder why we have problems sleeping at night. We wonder why we reach for comfort foods night after night. We wonder why we are not hungry all day and then ravenous by dinner time. Your body is BEGGING for help.
“But I feel GREAT when I get a good sweat session in.”
Thats because stress hormones can be addicting. They can FEEL good initially. Like you can actually be addicted to the feeling of stress.
Here are some ways that chronic, unresolved stress can prevent you from achieving optimal health and reaching your goals:
Cortisol, the steroid stress hormone released by stress binds to glucocorticoid receptors to downregulate inflammation. It’s actually a really powerful anti-inflammatory, and like all our hormones it’s not bad in itself, it only becomes bad when we don’t have it in the right balance.
If our receptors are constantly bombarded with cortisol, those receptors may downregulate, impairing cortisol’s anti-inflammatory activity.
As a result, chronic stress may increase the chances of chronic inflammation which often means injuries and slowed healing.
Stress stimulates the release of a neuropeptide called Substance P within the nervous system.
Substance P is a well-known activator of mast cells, an inflammatory cell that also releases histamine.
This means stress may contribute to inflammatory mast cell flare ups, which can be a cause of digestive issues, skin problems, hair loss, and more.
Leaky gut, a condition which is characterized by the increase in permeability of the gut lining, may be a huge contributor to inflammatory disorders.
This is due to bacterial components such as lipopolysaccharides, which, in the presence of leaky gut, get into circulation and stimulate inflammatory activity by the immune system.
If leaky gut goes unresolved, this inflammation can turn chronic – and can result in tissue damage causing immune cells to potentially create antibodies against our own tissue, setting the stage for autoimmunity diseases.
Well, SOMETHING has to. If your job is stressful, it may be time to build in midday walks and get outside for some fresh air.
Your workouts may need to be balanced with more rest days or you may need to balance the intensity vs the volume of your training. Or add in more quality training and less junk training.
You may need to add some form of relaxation techniques like meditation and breath work to your daily ritual – or maybe you prefer to journal.
Balancing stress will look different for everyone but it’s a critical component of health that NEEDS to be addressed.
Stress is okay in small doses and it’s important for building resilience in us as well. But chronic stress can truly lead to serious health issues – and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Join the other 10,000+ who get my best fitness, diet & mindset tips.