Fitness Friday: Managing Stress

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.

In my younger days, comments like this would have made me blow a fuse and write something stupid. Today I know she's just a scared woman living in a world where anger and hate is a currency, and she's swimming in that wealth.
In my younger days, comments like this would have made me blow a fuse and write something stupid. Today I know she’s just a scared woman living in a world where anger and hate is a currency, and she’s swimming in that wealth.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

One thought on “Fitness Friday: Managing Stress

  1. “But it’s not worth shortening your life because of the haters… Or the hate.”

    When I was in fourth grade we moved to Weston, MO, a small town near Kansas City, and Ft. Leavenworth, KS. We were there so my Army officer dad could attend the Command and General Staff College. But there was a shortage of housing on base, so we had to live in a tiny town, in a tiny house next to farms.

    Because I was different just haven lived in California the three years before, and actually liked reading books (plus I was ahead in math) I was relentlessly teased and bullied. I have a vivid memory when my older brother was taking care of me, that he took me to visit a friend further out of town. I had to lock myself in his car, and cower to get away from the verbal and physical harassment from the kids in that neighborhood.

    This is when I started my habit of going on long walks. I’d start from the tiny house near the top of the hill (“Summit Ave.”) and start walking. I walked by corn fields, tobacco fields, along the small forest, old barns and around. I still go on long walks, only this time listening to podcasts.

    “Today I know she’s just a scared woman living in a world where anger and hate is a currency, and she’s swimming in that wealth.”

    This is how a feel about the kids in Weston, MO in 1967/68. Perhaps they have improved, but they were not exactly the most welcoming ten year olds on this planet.

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