Health, Fitness + Wellness Articles Straight from the Source

Stress & Recovery – There’s more to it than you think

Missoulians are an active bunch. We balance outdoor activities, busy jobs, and family life. Even if you only checked off a few of those criteria, it’s safe to say if you live here you like to stay on the move and feel your best doing so. 

Whether you’re looking to improve at trail running, backcountry skiing, hunting or just stay a step ahead of the kids, we all know there are steps we can take to enhance performance. 

Improving at anything requires the right dose of stress. Exercise, diet, and recovery methods are all stimuli we can apply to elicit a change or adaptation. For us to achieve the adaptation we’re hoping for, managing positive and negative stress is the most important part of the process. More on positive and negative stress in a moment.

Even if you don’t spend a lot of time on the trail or at the gym, we can agree that stress management is the key to a happy and fulfilling lifestyle. We would all like to improve every day. That requires the right balance of stress. But too much bad stress can really pile up if it goes unmanaged.

Why Stress Matters

Our daily lives are full of both positive and negative stressors. Finances, exercising, a busy week at work, juggling multiple schedules at home can all add up. Our body doesn’t know the difference between an argument with a loved one and bad news from a boss. The hormonal responses are generally the same. And they’re cumulative. 

Imagine every stress or stimuli you encounter is a trip to the bank. Positive stressors or stimuli are a withdrawal; we need positive stressors in our lives to improve. If we never did anything hard, we’d never get better at anything. 

Too many withdrawals, however, can lead to a deficit, and no one likes being in debt. Similarly, too much stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. Just a few of the things that happen to our bodies when we remain stressed for too long include: 

  • Poor blood sugar management and insulin resistance.
  • Depression and sleep disruption.
  • Decreased thyroid hormone output and reduced metabolism.
  • Altered sex hormone activity.
  • Amino acid loss from muscles.

What does this mean for you?

Basically, it means that you could theoretically be doing all kinds of things right. You could be exercising hard and eating relatively well and still not get the results you’re hoping for. Being stressed out could be making you gain unwanted body fat and lose sleep. Stress could also be making you lose muscle and unable to control your mood.

Turn it around

To really learn to destress, it helps to understand exactly what’s happening. When our lives require heightened senses or performance, we automatically switch to a sympathetic state. This is our fight or flight mode. Maybe you’re giving a a big presentation at work, competing in a race, or had a relatively intense workout. Those are positive good stressors – the things in life that make us better than we were before. 

But to balance the stress response, positive or negative, we need to be able to get parasympathetic. The parasympathetic state is our rest and digest mode. There’s a lot of reading out there on the autonomic system and sympathetic/parasympathetic mode, but the main idea is we need a healthy balance of both and our ability to get parasympathetic allows our body and hormones to rest and reset.

Healthy nutrition and getting enough sleep (almost everybody needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night) are a good start, but if you’re working and playing hard you need to take extra steps to allow your body and mind to keep up and excel. Most studies agree that you need a minimum of 30 minutes a day of parasympathetic activity to really help balance your stress responses. 

Two of the best options are flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy ( or REST) and sauna sessions. 

Studies suggest that float REST can be an extremely beneficial tool in addition to, or even in place of, many other stress management tools or activities. Floating allows our muscles to relax, some of which we don’t even realize are always at work. Once our body is able to fully relax, hormonal signals that are only achieved when we are fully parasympathetic take place. Studies have shown that sensory deprivation can accelerate this process and is extremely effective in aiding rest and recovery. 

Saunas have been a staple in many cultures for hundreds of years as a stress relief tool, but recently infrared saunas have been studied to aid in treating ailments such as chronic arthritis, and autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. Early studies are very positive and are now looking into long term benefits. 

Either option is a fantastic choice to help you relax and reset. Other options include long walks outdoors, meditation, tea, and finding some nice relaxing company and downtime. Unfortunately, screen time doesn’t count. Our tech acts as a stimulant for our system, so that discounts the TV and phone time. 

If performance is important to you in any aspect of life, you need to put in the effort to refuel and be ready for each day. You can only improve your ceiling if your foundation is solid. At least 30 minutes a day to help get parasympathetic can help you improve your overall quality of life. 

Need to help getting parasympathetic? Check out Enlyten Lab for the highest quality float and sauna experience.
Looking for advice or guidance in the fitness and/or nutrition realm? Come see us at RevoMT Performance Center. We’re here to help you achieve your goals in and outside of the gym.

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