How are you right now if you think about the last two weeks? Based on your own assessment, is your stress gauge showing green, meaning everything is fine; or orange, meaning that you are experiencing momentary high stress and you are not recovering enough; or even red, meaning you have prolonged stress and have had too little recovery time for a long time?
In this blog we explore:
- What is stress and how does it affect us?
- What factors affect our recovery?
- Concrete ways to find a balance between stress and recovery
Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system
The body’s Accelerator and brake pedals, ie the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, are the ones that keep us alive and make us do things. They constantly fluctuate with each other – that’s why the balance between stress and rest is important.
The sympathetic nervous system regulates the heart rate and its range, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. In a stressful situation, the heart rate is high and breathing becomes more dense, blood pressure rises.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the nervous system for rest. At rest and recovery, the above Physiological properties decrease. During sleep, the parasympathetic nervous system is at its most active – sleep is essential for recovery.
Acute and chronic stress
Stress has a bad echo, but not all stress is bad at all.
Stress is a normal and good thing without which we would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. Enthusiasm and positive things are also “stress” and stress is needed to maintain adequate performance. In sports, work, everything. It helps us focus and achieve our goals.
It is therefore important to distinguish between momentary stress reactions and prolonged stress. A completely stress-free life should not be anyone’s goal. Short stress, for example, about giving a presentation is perfectly normal, and stress helps to cope and concentrate. Lack of recovery time is a problem, not stress in itself.
Many studies have shown how a different attitude to stress symptoms helps to cope. When you understand that, for example, when preparing for a speech, an increased pulse, trembling hands, and sweat on your forehead are part of normal physiological preparation, you can turn stress into an attempt to help your body perform better. Beliefs about the harmfulness of stress are detrimental to us, although changing this belief is easier said than done.
The constant fight-and-escape mode is evil. Stress begins to negatively affect the body, which begins to show up in everyday life. The function of the nervous system is truly individual. Some react strongly in stressful situations, others hardly have a pulse rise. Where one recovers quickly from the stress of the day in the evening, on the other the agitation does not decrease for a couple of hours and sleep does not come easily at night.
Chronic stress manifests as sleep problems, pain and ache, body stiffness, and illness because stress affects Immunity. Emotional symptoms include irritability and memory problems. Symptoms of behavior may include procrastination, withdrawal, change in exercise and eating habits.
Give time to recovery!
Saturday is the most burdensome day of the week! On Saturday, you do the things you don’t otherwise have time to do on a daily basis. On Saturday, you may do strenuous work-out because you didn’t have time during the week. In the evening, a few glasses (or more) of alcohol are consumed, disrupting sleep and physiological recovery. What relaxes us mentally is not necessarily doing so physiologically (eg a bar night).
Recovery inevitably requires calming down and doing nothing. Be a couch potato without a cell phone, and watch a movie, together with the family, being focused on the film.
Cherish your sleep and exercise appropriately
Sleep is essential for the functioning of the nervous system. It cannot be replaced by anything. Take care of good sleep hygiene by soothing the last two hours of the evening from work and other activating activities. Do something nice that doesn’t activate you too much, though.
Good basic endurance fitness is an important stress protector, it improves sleep and recovery potential. This does not mean tormenting workouts, but you need to be able to walk or cycle at a speed at which you can still talk. A stressed person also benefits from basic endurance training. Instead, for a really burdened person, heavy workouts can further increase the state of the nervous system and make recovery more difficult.
The appropriate amount of exercise varies depending on your life situation and life cycle. What you were able to do five years ago may not be good for you now. Think about what you can realistically do now, which will help you recover and cope.
Do you have a good flow at work? Still, take breaks so that your sympathetic nervous system is not running constantly at full speed. Securing a lunch break and breaking away from work for a longer period of time will help. Take micro breaks when working, ie variation in working positions and the place where the work is done. Inhaling deep into the diaphragm promotes recovery. Inhale for 4 seconds and out for 8 seconds, it relaxes the whole body.
How do you relax?
You don’t have to do yoga if you don’t want to, but for example, a quiet walk in nature with dogs can be your own time to recover. Sauna, open-air swimming, massage, meditation, Meaningful relationships, art and culture, games and play, and humor help with recovery.
Decide for yourself today one concrete, appropriate way to recover your life situation, and start following it for a couple of weeks. Do you notice a difference in your stress levels?
The Auntie package Stressed Out gives you helping tools for dealing with stress and recovering.
The blog is based on the Auntie webinar held by Auntie professional Hanna-Kaisa Raninen, where she went through the Physiology of stress and recovery.
Hanna-Kaisa Raninen is a mental coach who holds a Master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology and has two MBAs. In her work as Auntie-professional, Hanna-Kaisa helps her clients with stress management, self-management, better sleep and overall well-being. For Hanna-Kaisa, a client-based, empathetic approach and listening with curiosity are important to help the client find and develop their strengths.