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  • Coach Collins

3 Tips To Help Manage Stress...

Stress… It’s unavoidable… And you know, a certain amount can actually be a good thing! Stress your glutes with some lunges, your glutes will grow bigger and stronger. A little cold exposure can strengthen the circulatory system. A little alcohol makes me less of an uptight tosser… But - and I think this might be my new favourite saying - the dose makes the poison… Stress causes changes in hormone levels; it can alter immune, cardiac and gastrointestinal function; and it can make you really quite difficult to live with…  Stress comes in many forms: Biological: exposure to mould, bacteria, parasites, etc Chemical: exposure to toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, etc Environment: exposure to extreme temperatures, radiation, EMFs, etc Nutritional: food allergies / intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, alcohol, etc Physical: vigorous physical activity, surgery / trauma / injury, illness, etc Psychological: depression, anger, anxiety, grief, etc Spiritual: I won’t go too far into the woo, but trust me, it’s a thing… I’m not going to address mould, heavy metals, radiation or your diarrhoea-inducing dairy intolerance; instead, I’m going to give you three practical tips to help you simmer down a couple of notches… To help you chill before you go on a killing spree through the office… Tip 1… Ashwaghanda Ashwagandha is known among herbalists as the ayurvedic steroid, Indian Ginseng - its roots have multiple medicinal applications and it has traditionally been prescribed to strengthen the immune system for thousands of years. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen - a combination of amino acids, vitamins, and herbs that modulate your response to stress or a changing environment. Adaptogens help the body cope with external stresses such as toxins in the environment and internal stresses such as anxiety and insomnia. Basically, it chills you out and helps you deal with all of life’s inconveniences a whole lot better… And **** me, there are a lot of them… Other benefits include, but are not limited to: - Improves memory and facilitates learning. - Shown in numerous clinical studies to improve levels of blood plasma protein levels and hematocrit - general markers of overall health. - Male athletes using Ashwagandha for the first time ALL show signs of increased testosterone production, increased facial hair and elevated libido… And increased semen production… - For women - and these aren’t my words - it: “promotes graceful ageing, provides menopause support, sexual potency, memory support, revitalization, memory support and helps with fertility…” Do your own research before you decide if it’s for you. Tip 2… Breathing… The way you breathe significantly affects your nervous system… The gist is that the sympathetic nervous system is associated with fight-or-flight (stress and action) and the parasympathetic nervous system regulates recovery and relaxation. Mouth breathing, fast breathing, heavy breathing, all activate the sympathetic nervous system - your fight-or-flight response. Remaining in this fight-or-flight state will negatively impact pretty much everything you do… It’s like this: if you were being chased by a bear, your body would respond with a flood of adrenaline and cortisol for the purpose of surviving the encounter. During this time, your body shifts priorities away from things like digestion, healing and clearing toxins to focus on surviving; your blood sugar will significantly increase, heart rate and blood pressure will elevate, digestion slows and even your vision is altered… Not a problem if it only happens occasionally, but if we are in a continual low-grade stress response - something brought about by poor breathing habits, your accountants being f***ing terrible, the British government, etc - then you are wreaking havoc on your body, disrupting numerous systems like your neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular, all while catabolizing muscle and stockpiling body fat around the midsection… Sympathetic nervous system dominance, or fight-or-flight, should be reserved only for times of actual physical danger, not for temporary traffic lights or responding to emails… So… There’s a kind of chicken and egg scenario here, because… - If you get stressed, your breathing changes - And if your breathing changes, you get stressed… - If you relax, your breathing changes - And - and this is the important bit - if you change your breathing, you relax Making the change from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic dominance starts with changing your breathing… We want to breathe lightly through the nose via the diaphragm. We have a muscle for the specific purpose of breathing that a lot of people don’t actually use… The diaphragm… Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as eupnea, is our natural, relaxed form of breathing and it comes with a number of benefits, including but not limited to: - Activation of the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, eliciting a relaxation response… (Disrupts the fight-or-flight response) - Better movement and less tension in the upper chest, shoulders and neck; improved posture and less headaches… (With chest breathing there is an increased activity of the upper traps and reduced activity of the lower traps… This will eventually cause shoulder / back / rotator cuff problems… For athletes, breathing patterns will likely not be the only cause of this, however…) - Diaphragmatic breathing yields a more efficient gas exchange. The bottom third of the lungs is where the bulk of the gas exchange takes place… With chest breathing, you’re getting less gas exchange, leading to an increased desire to breathe… - Diaphragmatic breathing massages the abdominal organs, including the lymphatic system (that thing responsible for waste elimination)... Contractions of the diaphragm stimulate the lymph nodes and facilitates lymphatic drainage - think of it as a bit like detoxing… Diaphragm Activation We want diaphragmatic breathing for all the reasons already mentioned. This is a nifty little diaphragm activation technique that will help you breathe better… - Lie down on your back.

- Place one hand lightly on your stomach and one on your chest.

- When you breathe, is your chest rising, or your stomach? - Concentrate on breathing through the nose, into the stomach, not using the chest - Feel your stomach and hand rise as the lungs fill from the bottom.

- Let the stomach fall naturally when breathing out by relaxing the diaphragm.

Now, chances are if you normally breathe using your mouth and chest and you changed your pattern to breathe into the stomach, you used your abdominals not your diaphragm… It’s ok… I did it too at first… Luckily I have a diaphragm activation tip for you, right here: - Lie down on your back. - Locate your bottom rib - just above your abs - Apply pressure with your fingers - Really dig in - Rub around the area for about 20 seconds( If you struggled to use your diaphragm earlier, this may be tender…) - Place your fingers on your sternum (breast plate / cleavage…) and move ½ an inch towards the chest each side - Apply pressure - Really dig in - Rub the area for around 20 seconds Retest your diaphragmatic breathing - it should be a lot easier and feel more natural. Repeat as needed. Tip 3… Unleash the dragon…  There’s a time and a place to express your anger. Suppressing it forever is certainly an option, but unfortunately all that energy and tension kinda has to go somewhere… Simply put, you can store unexpressed emotions in your muscles, and we all know it…  You get stressed, you store tension in your neck, shoulders, and traps… This goes a hell of a lot deeper, too… You can see expressions of depression, you can see a lack of pride, empathy, even frustration towards others manifesting as physical issues in certain parts of the body… “How you create tension shows you how you perceived the world and your current perception of the world”. Instead of flipping out at the office and nutting people, or bottling everything up and losing your shit in the middle of the post office, take it all out at the gym. 

- D-Ball slams every minute on the minute

- Heavy sumo deadlifts

- Incline bench 

Let the dark side flow through you - unleash the dragon - all in an appropriate place, at an appropriate time. It’s better than being arrested, and it’s a lot better than an early heart attack.

Finish the session with a 5 minute “oblique opener”… It’s an effective way to bring you back down to earth, and to help you manage stress.


~ Coach Collins  

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