Can you hear it? Sure you can. The low rumbling sound of the Holidays that started at Costco in early October and now saturates nearly every retail store in the US of A. Christmas may be capitalism’s best buddy, but stress can ruin the friendship. Quick definition: Stress is defined by Wikipedia (Relax, I’ll donate the $5 to help keep it free) as referring to “ the consequence of the failure of an organism-human or animal-to respond adequately to mental emotional, or physical demands, whether actual or imagined.” Don’t that sound like NEGATIVE stress? What if you get promoted at work? Have a baby? Walk the aisle at your wedding? Plenty of happy bride have passed-out on that long, stressful walk to the front of the church. Compare the stress of love’s first kiss to a root canal. Hopefully you get the idea.
In 1936, Hans Selye introduced the General Adaptation Syndrome, which shows in three phases the effects of stress on the body. I'm more fond of his definition of stress as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change". Here's a breif description of his three stages in order of reaction:
Alarm- first reaction to stress. Recognizes danger and attempts to deal with it.
Resistance-adapt and resolve the source of stress
Exhaustion-ability to resist is lost and burn out sets in.
We rely on this system to dictate how well we are coping as life happens around us. Many factors play into which stage we find ourselves at the end of the day. Personality type, genetic's, nutrition, lifestyle (sleep, exercise, alcohol, ect) are all spokes to the wheel. For purposes of this blog, exercise, most specifically the "out of the comfort zone" type, will be our focus. For within this subject we can combine opinion and fact that may lead one toward Eustress (Good), not Distress (Evil).
Hormones gauge our moods.
The big players are Endorphins, Enkephalins, and Coritisol. Endorphins and enkephalins are morphine-like hormones released by the pituitary gland that reduce pain and elevate mood. This is Good. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to extreme physical, mental or emotional stress. To its credit, cortisol’s function is to help increase blood glucose levels. The problem comes when it’s released in response to physical, mental or emotional stress. High levels of cortisol have even been shown to display increased risk of suicide. This is Evil.
Here is where the mind-body connection comes into play. If your brain is essentially “a thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action” (www.fi.edu/lean/brain/exercise.html), then my Mom was right, you ARE as happy as you make your mind up to be! Her nearly exact words were, “Joe-Joe, think good thoughts, count your blessings and take out the garbage.” Back then if my actions didn’t follow perceptions, Dad was always home by 6 pm to make sure they did.
At Positive Stress Workout, we’ve expanded on Mom’s advice and Dad’s motivation. We look to the proper use of intense daily exercise as a means of releasing endorphins capable of producing feeling of euphoria and well-being. “The increase in anabolic hormone levels observed consequent to the performance of heavy resistance exercise can increase hormonal interactions with various cellular mechanisms and enhance the development of muscle protein contractile units”. (Essentials of Strength and Conditioning). Yes folks, Proof Positive that you have to work HARD ENOUGH, but not too hard, to shake loose those important mood enhancers. Practice this nearly everyday with your Nationally Certified Trainer’s blessing that you’re doing it right, and life is Good. Do it wrong or not at all, and life is Evil.
Always a take-home, right? Here it is: Be creative and intense enough with your exercise so holiday stress doesn’t hit you square in the Speedo. Run the loop at Country Park, do an afternoon Body Shop workout, swim some 50 repeats at GAC, run the stairs, hike Hanging Rock non-stop, tread water for 40 minutes, just do it with a sense of purpose. “Perception, not fact, is reality.” Not sure who said it, but if it’s true, we should count on consistent, progressive exercise is to help us conquer Good over Evil.