My brother in-law is a fitness junkie. If there is some way out there to get healthy and stay healthy, he knows it. So I was surprised when he asked several of us for any recommendations on books about handling stress. It’s not that he doesn’t know about it. He just wants to know how to communicate about stress with his personal training clients.
The reason it surprised me is because any health program worth its salt should include classes on about stress and how to communicate with clients about it. After all, he went through a good program to be where he is. Like my brother-in-law, there are many other professionals in fitness and health that are looking for ways to address their clients’ entire wellbeing. It’s not all about being physically fit if you die from a heart attack from all the stress in your life.
I was listening to Collin Cowherd on ESPN this morning, and he said something that is very true. He said that life is all about swapping stress. If you’re well-off financially, surely there are other parts of your life that are not taken care of and causing you stress. His example was a college football coach who regrets missing out on his children’s lives. The coach is a multi-millionaire, but he was an absent father to his children.
Personally, I think stress has contributed to modern era mortality like few other things have. We controlled infectious disease, but chronic disease took over killing us. We know what causes diabetes and heart disease, but there is still a ways to go to address those diseases. Stress in the different forms that it takes is killing us.
For example, I’m working on proposing my doctoral thesis. I stay up late reading or doing some other form of work toward that end. I also drive an hour, or more on bad days, to and from school almost every day. I’ve been struggling with biostats, so I study for that and I have a midterm exam coming up. Instead of working out, I fill the gaps between assignments and work with naps, lounging on the sofa, and/or eating. My cultural habits are to eat and eat some more at celebrations.
So I get fat.
It’s not just me. A great majority of us are packing on the pounds because we forget that one of the best ways to relieve stress is to get our heart rate up and oxygenate the brain. Instead, we drink high-calorie drinks, eat snacks, and grab anything we can on the way in to work or school. We do it over and over until we’re out of control. Then we get stressed even more because we get bad news from the doctor. Or we don’t fit into a suit the day of an important event. The stress just keeps on rolling in.
Think of stress the next time you think of a strategy to get healthy and stay healthy. Do things that reduce your stress and work your body and mind. Most of all, stop stressing about the little things. I know that it is easier said than done. I know that there are hundreds — or thousands — of triggers and people out there who stress you. But it’s not worth shortening your life because of the haters… Or the hate.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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