We’re taking a little bit of a different approach to stress in this week’s episode of The Stress Less Show. A lot of us view stress as being public enemy #1 in our lives. I mean, who has time for all the stress headaches, lack of sleep, frustration?? It is no secret that for a lot of us, stress is really negatively affecting our ability to feel healthy and make healthy choices. However, since this month’s theme is physical health, I brought fitness and nutrition coach Nick Deacon on the show to talk about how we can actually start to see stress as a way for us to grow and even improve our bodies and minds.
Nick’s journey with fitness, nutrition, and stress started early as he began to look for an alternative to the unhealthy lifestyles he saw the adults around him living.
“I realized you could change your body and how it looked, how it felt, how it performed… through training and proper nutrition and lifestyle. I just all of a sudden felt empowered.”
He jumped right in, learning more about physical health and trying every new diet or exercise in search of getting healthier and healthier. It wasn’t until attending a conference in Oho, however, that things really started to click for him and he came to a realization that changed his whole approach to fitness and physical health.
“I was looking for this the perfect diet and all these things outside of me… I was looking for all these people outside to show me the answer... [But I realized] we already have it inside of us… it's really our response to what it is that we're putting in - whether it's food, whether it's exercise - that's what determines whether or not we change and how we change. That was the big epiphany.”
Now a successful fitness and nutrition coach, Nick has a unique perspective on how we can improve our ability to handle stress and lead healthier lives which is why he wanted to share a couple of tips with me on how to increase our capacity for handling stress.
Tip #1: Reframe Your Perception of Stress
First, Nick emphasizes the importance of rethinking the way we look at stress. According to him, stress itself actually provides us a positive opportunity for growth when we start to look at it from a new perspective.
“Stress itself is really just our adaptive response to the changes in the world around us.”
When we start to look at our moments of stress we can see that pattern. We get stressed when we change jobs, move to a new place, lose our car keys, or maybe even when we have to find a new coffee shop to go to every morning. While some things feel more stressful than others, for most of us we often see stress as a negative experience. We associate stress with headaches, dread, irritability, or insomnia - and none of those things are very fun! However, those painful and negative experiences of stress have more to do with what is happening inside of us than the things causing the stress.
“When we talk about that nasty feeling [of stress]… it's really just overwhelm... It's an excess of stress, it's too much stimulation. That's when the changes to the environment have surpassed our ability to deal with them.”
According to Nick, a key in overcoming those feelings of overwhelm inside of us is to start seeing stressors as a chance to grow within ourselves and increase the amount of stressful stimulation we can process without feeling overwhelmed. This is crucial because, ultimately, life is never going to be 100% stress free all the time.
“We can't always avoid stressors. Avoiding them will help will make us miss the opportunities to grow. Instead, we can optimize the stress response and focus on adapting to our stressors.”
Tip #2: Identify and Remove Chronic Stressors
As we begin to reframe our relationship with stress and optimize our response to it, it is important to understand what are chronic stressors are and how they are affecting us. We may not be able to remove all stressors from our lives, but Nick emphasizes that finding out what stress is consistently showing up for us is necessary for our mental, emotional, and physical health.
“If we have a stimulus, but it's constant, our bodies just ignore it. So we start layering all this stress that we no longer become aware of and it weighs us down. The problem with that is that chronic stress can ruin our health.”
According to Nick, chronic stress can affect all kinds of things inside of us. It can affect our digestion, our menstrual cycle, our immune system, and more. In order for our bodies to function properly and improve, we simply cannot afford to ignore what is causing us chronic and consistent stress. Once we have identified the things in our lives that are causing us constant stress, Nick suggests using things such as mindfulness and exercise to break that cycle of chronic stress so that we can start to learn how to handle those stressful situations with more peace of mind.
“If we identify and we remove our chronic stressors or at least interrupt them with breathing and mindfulness exercises then we regain our choice to be able to control our reaction to it.”
If you are interested in building a more sustainable approach to your health, you learn more about Nick or schedule a complimentary consultation with him by visiting his website here or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Facebook and Instagram.