Step 6

Manage Stress

The first step is understanding it.

Even when eating and exercising properly, physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stresses can wreck our health and fitness.

Importance

Understanding Stress

“Stress” is the brain and body’s response to a real or perceived threat. It is an incredibly complex response which prepares us to 1) adapt to the stress (in the case of exercise) and ultimately reap benefits from it, or 2) learn to eliminate it (such as avoiding junk food or exposure to harmful indoor chemicals).

Examples of stress:

  • Physical: too much or too little exercise, wearing bad shoes, dental problems, sitting too much, poor sleep quality/quantity.
  • Biochemical: poor food choices, indoor air pollution, drug side effects.
  • Mental-emotional: misinformation about health, uncomfortable issues at work or socially, unhealthy attitudes (such as “no-pain, no-gain).
Dangers

Unhealthy Stress

Stress is cumulative, so even several seemingly minor stresses can be significant.

The brain responds to stress by quickly producing stress hormones, such as those associated with a “fight or flight” reaction. If we don’t recover from this acute stress, they build up, causing health and performance to be impaired in all aspects of life. For example:

  • Brain function (reduced memory, depression, anxiety).
  • Blood sugar (hunger, cravings).
  • Fat-burning (increased body fat, fatigue).
  • Immune function (increased illness).
  • Sex hormones (menstrual irregularity, fertility, sexual impairment).
  • Muscle and bone health (injuries, muscle imbalance, bone loss).

Next step: Take the survey below.

Take the survey

Take the following survey to determine your risk of unhealthy stress. This survey will provide you with a personalized risk level (low, moderate, or high) that you can use to better understand your health status.

Disclaimer

A high level of risk doesn’t mean that you have a serious health condition. It means that due to your present situation (lifestyle, health and habits), you have a higher risk for this condition.

Solutions

Recognize and evaluate your physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stresses.

Making a “Stress List”

Applies to:

High Risk
Moderate Risk

A stress list is a simple but essential stress-management tool comprised of 3 sections: Physical stress, biochemical stress, mental-emotional stress. The basic idea is to list your stresses in each appropriate category, such as:

  • Physical: too much or too little exercise, wearing bad shoes, dental problems, sitting too much, poor sleep quality/quantity.
  • Biochemical: poor food choices, indoor air quality, drug side effects.
  • Mental-emotional: misinformation about health, stressful issues at work or social, unhealthy attitudes (such as “no-pain, no-gain”).

Creating a comprehensive stress list can take time, so don’t rush it. There are often many hidden stresses in our lives.

Some key strategies for managing your stress list:

  • List stresses to become more aware of them as they happen.
  • Prioritize each section, from greatest to least.
  • Note those stresses that can be easily eliminated—act on these first.

By eliminating or modifying some stress, our body can better tolerate or adapt to those stresses we may be unable to sufficiently change.

If you have a low risk of unhealthy stress, you can move on to the next step.