How many of you chase fatigue in order to bury your stress?
This may be the most counterproductive thing you can do, especially if A) you return to the same stressful environment you were in prior to the workout, or B) you have a predisposition to anxiety.
In both cases, your body is already flooded with hormones and neurotransmitters associated with fight or flight. Increasing the amount of those hormones and preventing them from flushing properly is a catastrophe waiting to happen, yet it’s unfortunately a very socially accepted way of life. It’s one of the many reasons people have such a hard time maintaining a solid exercise routine.
Typically, people will flock to bootcamps and fun, yet intense, group training modals as a coping mechanism for their hectic work and family schedules. This usually means tons of mountain climbers, a barbell throw or two, burpees (vomit), loud music and hi-fiving slimey tatooed naked people. This does sound like an amazing night, but here’s the kicker:
If all day you’ve been making decisions that have your stomach in a knot, then you’ve been experiencing increased epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine which are the neurotransmitters which respond to stress. COMT is a gene that helps to flush those NT’s out of the brain, and everyone has varying levels. In effect, you may flush those quickly and I may flush them slowly. This is a major reason why your stress solutions will be so individualized. All of the fireworks of high-intensity-training, listed above, trigger the same response; NT’s -> elevated cortisol -> depressed digestive and immune systems. So you’re technically just perpetuating the cycle and not healing the source, especially if you are experiencing chronic stress. Cortisol hits the blood stream at roughly 75% heart rate and doesn’t leave until you calm for about 20 minutes. Unless you are providing your body the chance to flush them after the workout, they will linger.
Outside the netherrealm of hormones, poor movement quality in your workouts can also perpetuate physical tensions in the neck, shoulders, and joints which cause chronic pain and thus perpetuates physical and emotional stress. This chronic pain issue is a huge contributor to excess inflammation in the body, and quite the burden on your immune system which could use it’s resources on other more important jobs like pathogens. Doing a workout with just any movement isn’t going to help your situation either. If you are going to workout, some lower intensity movement practices which are directed at improving the way you move would be a much better solution for stress relief.
When exercise is a great idea
There are two major types of stress responders: hyper-associative and dissociative. Hyper-associators get very intimate with their stressors, which makes it very hard to enter relaxation before or after exercise. This can be due to a predisposition to anxiety or NT imbalance. Simply exchange lower intensity movement practice for a high-intensity workout while work and family stress is at high-tide.
Dissociators (less emotionally affected) on the other hand usually do not get as worked up as others. Obviously movement quality and joint inflammation is still a factor for you. But as far as emotional stress factors go, you are probably good to go since you recover from the high stress workout very well.
The Big Idea:
to manage stress
If you are dealing with high anxiety, take the time to chill out instead of burn out: walk, meditate, play music. You will experience a huge boost in energy.
Go ahead and workout (exercise does help trigger post exercise parasympathetic response) but give yourself 30 minutes, at minimum, afterwards to flush those fight or flight hormones out of your body via meditation, foam rolling, diaphragmatic breathing, etc.
Your body will thank you.