contact a recruiter

Most Popular in Fitness

  • Army PFT Two-Mile Run Score Chart
    Army PFT Two-Mile Run Score Chart
    Military.com|
    You must score at least a 50 in each event in order to pass the APFT to graduate Basic Combat Training.
  • Army PFT Push-up Score Chart
    Army PFT Push-up Score Chart
    Military.com|
    You must score at least a 50 in each event in order to pass the APFT to graduate Basic Combat Training.
  • Army PFT Sit-up Score Chart
    Army PFT Sit-up Score Chart
    Military.com|
    You must score at least a 50 in each event in order to pass the APFT to graduate Basic Combat Training.
  • Air Force BMT Physical Fitness Test
    Air Force BMT Physical Fitness Test
    Military.com|
    The Air Force's Basic Military Training Physical Fitness Test is a three-event physical performance test used to test your endu...

De-​​Stressing Routine for Anyone

How to Combat Stress with Fitness

Here is an email from a security officer I have known for a few years who primarily does personal security details nearly every day of the week.

Stew, I am trying to get back into workouts but with 18–20 hour travelling security details, I barely have time to sleep before I am up again preparing for the next day. This last month has been brutal with travel, daily security details, and eating like crap. I am ready to turn this around and start working out hard again. What do you recommend and where should I start?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Your nerves are shot?” Basically you are over stressed and need to focus on the basics right now. Truly though, your central nervous system takes a beating when you are not sleeping well and having long stressful work days which can negatively impact your personal life (thus more stress), and not eating right.

After a month or more of high stress work and lack of sleep your sympathetic nervous system is highly activated right now. Loosely defined, the sympathetic nervous system’s job is our survival response — fight or flight mode, but can continuously be triggered by prolonged stress, multiple drinks of caffeine, long days, sleepless nights, poor nutrition and lack of any physical outlet. Combined, these can be deadly as you are more likely to suffer heart attacks, stroke, or mental breakdown. A way to remember sympathetic nervous system is “S” in sympathetic also stands for SPEED UP. It’s job is to speed up our body so we can live. However if there is not physical outlet such as a fight or flight physical response (or daily exercise), that stress stays with us and can become chronic.

You need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system for a few weeks before getting back into hard workouts again. Once again, loosely defined, the parasympathetic nervous system’s job is to slow you down. Think of a PARAchute as it slows you down before you hit the ground. It is also called the REST and DIGEST as is slows the heart rate and increases digestive function. In fact, if you are having digestive issues from heart burn, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, etc, it is likely due to the sympathetic nervous system getting overworked and the parasympathetic system not getting activated. By breathing deeply, either while sitting or adding in some moderate cardiovascular activity, you can help yourself relax and de-​​stress.

As an active person, it will be tough to ONLY do this easy exercise routine, but it is a good way to get things right back in your world even if you are still working that many hours a day. Here is what I recommend for the next few weeks:

Daily cardio: Walk after every meal — breathe deeply and just walk for 5–10 minutes. When you are done with your day OR before it starts get 15–20 minutes of some form of cardio. This can be walking, walk/​jog mix, jogging, biking, elliptical gliding, swimming, rowing - just do something for a few minutes. Focus on big inhales /​ big exhales.

Resistance Training: Keep this at a minimum for a few weeks. Do a few sets of pushups, squats, a few minutes of core exercises like crunches and plank poses. Only spend 5–10 minutes doing this activity. Focus on burning off some of the “stress” of the day and breathe deeply for each repetition.

Eating right: Foods rich in antioxidants like fruits, vegetables are your best snack foods and will help you counter the negative affects of stress. Eat good proteins like meat, fish, and chicken. The amino acids help you recover from stressful days, events, and workouts. Eat good fats like olive oil, fish oil pills, nuts, almonds that will help you fight off some of the inflammation chronic stress produces. Limit your sugar intake and drinks high in caffeine as they will stimulate you and make it more difficult to sleep in the evening. A good rule of thumb is no caffeine after 3pm if you are trying to go to bed in the next 7–8 hours. Drink plenty of water — being dehydrated stresses the body.

Did I mention breathing? Breathing deeply is the key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system and down-​​regulating the sympathetic nervous system. When you feel that stressful moment (either real or imagined) take a minute to breathe. You should get 4–5 breath cycles in that minute by inhaling in through the nose (fully), hold for 2–3 seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth for about 10–15 seconds. This will take care of any jitters, butterflies, anxiety you maybe feeling at the time. Do for a few minutes while you start to go to sleep for better results with sleeping — our true stress buster.

SLEEP: Sleep is our bodies’ natural stress relief. If you are missing out on 6–8 hours of sleep every evening, you are not getting enough sleep to balance out our typical stressful day. Compound that will improper nutrition, overworking, even overexercising, and dehydration, and you are now over-​​stressed. To be honest, even with the perfect nutrition program, low daily stress levels, if you are missing a night of sleep or more, you can easily be exhibiting the signs of over-​​stressing or even over-​​training.

Sign of Over Stressing /​ Over-​​Training /​ Over-​​Stimulated Sympathetic Nervous System:

  • Washed-​​out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches /​ High blood pressure
  • Increased number of colds, and sore throats
  • Decrease in training capacity /​ intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Decreased appetite, etc

If you have several of these symptoms, take a good look at your daily schedule and find out what is out of balance. This game of stress is a delicate balance of hormonal responses from the speed up and slow down sides of our autonomic nervous system. Even though they are automatic responses to life that are difficult to control, we can control how we deal with stress with some serious thought and action.

If you have several of these symptoms, take a good look at your daily schedule and find out what is out of balance. This game of stress is a delicate balance of hormonal responses from the speed up and slow down sides of our autonomic nervous system. Even though they are automatic responses to life that are difficult to control, we can control how we deal with stress with some serious thought and action.

Related Topics

General Fitness Running and Cardio Health Stew Smith Diet and Nutrition Mental Health

Military News App by Military.com

Download the new Military.com News App for Android on Google Play or for Apple devices on iTunes!

Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

© 2016 Military Advantage