Feeling Stressed?

16th May * 3 min read

What do YOU do to keep your brain sane?

When I started lecturing Anatomy and Physiology for the L3 >Diploma in Personal Training, I soon realised that my favourite topic to teach was the Central Nervous System and it still is!

What a geek I hear you cry! Well we all have some level of stress in this modern-day world which is controlled by the nervous system, but we don’t really know how to stop those feelings of being anxious or even depressed, sometimes we can’t think clearly, or we wake up at 3am and just can’t get back to sleep as our brains are wired!

Is this you?

I love to advise Personal Training clients how to reduce stress and achieve fat loss goals through simple methods of managing the nervous system, I enjoy educating our learners at Fitness HQ on this very same thing so that they are equipped to help their clients achieve their goals. Exercise and diet are not always enough to improve health and even body composition.

The nervous system regulates and coordinates the body’s activities. It is the communication system of our body, it manages our hormones, which have been reported to play an important role in homeostasis of various organs, but we just get on with our busy stressful lives and ignore the signs of cortisol rising or the adrenaline that could be making your fingers tingle. We might even put on weight or in the case of women they might bring on the menopause earlier than expected due to the body being under chronic stress on a day to day basis.

So why do we feel like this?

If you are stressed all the time, and this can mean not eating correctly (too much, too little) doing no physical activity or doing too much exercise, drinking, smoking, never relaxing, living off coffee or not having enough sleep or even a combination of these then try a couple of the tips outlined below.

But first, without getting too scientific let’s look at what is going on with your nervous system. If our body is stressed with any of the above lifestyle habits, we switch on our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), this increases the heart rate and injects cortisol and adrenaline into our bloodstream. Before we evolved in to this modern-day world it worked a treat as we needed fight or flight to survive. To return the body into a good level of homeostasis we would then switch on our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), by RELAXING!

So, there it is, right there, the biggest problem. We just can’t relax, we don’t know how to any more in this fast-paced world. If we allow cortisol to be in our system all of the time as we are not finding ways to relax or switch on the parasympathetic nervous system we are not balancing homeostasis which can lead to all sorts of problems that we are experiencing from weight gain, anxiety and more mental health issues which can develop into depression or worse. We reduce serotonin (our happy hormone and GABA our relaxing hormone) and then say its just stress like that’s ok?

Well its not! Lets just look after ourselves and try to implement at least one of these tips to manage and improve your brain health. It is as important as exercise and nutrition. Sleep and stress may not have calories but they have a big effect on the brain and the nervous system.

Top Tips to keep your brain sane: REST and RECOVERY

  • Find a time in the day where you can go for 20-30 minutes walk – slow and relaxed, not fast or checking your emails and texts!
  • Have a bath, add some Epsom salts in and stay there for 15-20 minutes, preferably when the house is empty or let the family know you want peace and quiet for a while.
  • Go to a Pilates Matwork class – focus on the exercises and the breathing to allow your brain to ‘switch on the parasympathetic nervous system’
  • Book in with a Personal Trainer – talk to them about your lifestyle and allow them to support you, have someone you are accountable to.
  • Find an app that suits you which instructs guided meditation. Headspace is a good one to start with as it offer 10 free sessions to get you started. This is not easy with a busy brain – so it takes perseverance and keep at it until you get better at it.
  • Go for a massage – even a Sports Massage to help your muscles relax and reduce tension.

The team at Fitness HQ would love to know if this resonates with you and if you manage to try any of the suggestions.

Did they help? We would love to hear from you, share your story with us.

Contact [email protected] if you want more advice on the topic or on the courses we offer.

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