15 Tips To Manage Stress

15 Tips To Manage Stress

Some simple strategies can help keep your stress levels in check.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 10 Dec 2017

Mindset Beginner
12 Mins

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Stress is a part of life. Whether it’s a positive or a negative will depend on the dose, frequency and circumstance in which you expose your body to stress.

We all have to deal with it.

If you’re not careful, it’ll wreak havoc on all aspects of your life unless you’re part of the genetic elite who thrives off stress.

You know the ones who…
  • Don’t need more than 3-4 hours of sleep a night
  • Build muscle and lose body fat by just looking at weights and eating Krispy Kremes everyday
  • Can work 16 hours a day and stay cool as a cucumber
I know this isn’t me, and if you’re reading an article about stress, chances are it’s not you either.

Instead, we’re the ones with…
  • Low levels of sleep
  • Stress prone tendencies like overthinking, paralysis by analysis & indecisiveness
  • Loads of life stressors like a demanding job and bad relationships
Despite all of this, we still want results. We still want to build muscle, lose body fat and train hard in the process.

So What's The Problem Here?

Our body doesn’t recognise different types of stress. Whether it’s sleeping only 3-4 hours a night, worrying about a bill that needs to be paid, arguing with your significant other, getting pissed off in traffic, or training hard, it’s all stress to the body.

Let’s use an analogy of a stress cup, as per the image below:
In an ideal world, we’d all like to be the cup on the right, where we’re able to allocate much of our ‘resources’ to training hard. But if we pour too much stress into our cups – like our middle cup here – it’ll overflow and this is where the negative effects of stress are found.

There are tons of studies and medical reports on how stress affects our bodies, but I want to keep it simple and relevant for you here, so I won’t go into the science too much.

How Will Stress Affect My Results?

  • Reduced quality & quantity of sleep
  • Negative effect on hormone production, e.g. testosterone & thyroid
  • Poor quality digestion – your body will be unable to use and absorb the nutrients necessary to build muscle and lose body fat
  • Overactive muscle tension – especially in the neck & upper back region. Your body will also be much more prone to injury if you’re always ‘tight’
  • Weakened immune system – if you’re always getting sick you won’t make progress
All of this will affect your ability to build muscle and lose body fat:
  • If you can’t sleep well you won’t recover
  • If you’ve got the testosterone count of a hamster, you won’t build muscle
  • If you can’t digest any food, your body won’t effectively partition any nutrients to your muscles and vital organs
  • If you’re always injured, you won’t be able to apply progressive overload
  • If you’re always sick, you’ll never be able to stay consistent.

How Will I Know If My Cup Is Too Full?

Stress affects everyone differently; both in the manner in which people are able to handle it, and in their individual ‘capacity’. If you think back to our genetic freaks earlier, not only do they thrive off stress and not let it affect them, they also have bigger ‘cups’.

Think about guys like Arnold and The Rock. Their cups aren’t overflowing. They’re dominating and crushing it because they’re in control and keep a lid on their stress.

Contrast that to us ‘normal’ folk, and we’ll typically end up with these symptoms:
  • Fatigue in the morning and all day
  • Wired at night despite being tired
  • Struggling to stay asleep
  • Always getting sick
  • Constant cravings for sugar, salt and calorie dense foods
  • Poor recovery from training – always feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus
  • Difficulty building muscle and losing body fat – your body will be in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ vs. the preferred ‘rest and digest’
Stress can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but these are some of the most common. If you can relate, chances are your cup is full and changes in your life need to be made.

Why Do We Feel Like This?

This is a complicated topic but to break it down simply, here’s what’s happening…

Every time your body is exposed to stress, your brain tells your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline is your ‘fight or flight’ hormone, and cortisol will stop your body from doing anything that isn’t necessary, such as digesting your lunch, or building muscle.

In short, sharp bursts this is normal and helps us perform better. But when it’s continuous and on a consistent basis for a long period of time, it’s a problem.

When you put your body under chronic stress, the receptors where the stress hormones typically attach to become desensitised and down regulate. As a result, your stress hormone levels stay elevated. And over time, this can lead to your body being unable to secrete sufficient amounts of stress hormones.

This ‘dysfunction’ will then create many of the symptoms and issues discussed earlier.

How Should We Handle Stress?

We all have to deal with stress from time to time no matter how hard we try to avoid it. How we deal with it will vary from person to person, so I’d like to discuss a variety of strategies that have helped both myself and many of my clients.

Control who and what you allow into your life – friendships and relationships should be uplifting and make you better. If they only serve to stress you out and create anxiety, you’re better off without them.

If you can’t control it, don’t worry. This is easier said than done but something I’m slowly improving on with my own life. If something happens, and you can’t change the situation, worrying about it won’t change anything – be proactive instead and focus on what you can do. Spending time thinking ‘what if’ is a complete waste of time and energy.

Have clear-set goals. This is a bit of a misnomer because for some people, goals can stress them out. But for others, like myself, it gives me motivation to control my stress. It allows me to create a tunnel vision with what and who I let into my life. And in times of stress, I use my goal to ask myself whether or not stress was helping or hurting the goal.

Learn to say no. This is a follow on from the previous point, and another one I’m trying to get better at each day. For business owners reading this, you’ll know the temptation to try new projects, new strategies, new products etc., but in most cases, doubling down on one thing is usually the best option. Knowing your goal and your ‘one thing’ allows you to stay focused and not allow too much onto your plate. We all have limited bandwidths, so managing and protecting it is a critical component to managing stress.

Cut down on your to-do list. I used to love writing long to-do lists to create the perception of a ‘busy’ and packed schedule. Now I’ll try limit my calendar to three key tasks for the day. If I get these three done, I’m happy. The rest is trivial.

Create structure in your day. One of my favourite books is ‘The One Thing’ and within it Gary Keller discusses a great strategy of ‘being a MAKER in the morning…and a MANAGER in the afternoon’. I’ve adopted this with great success in my own life and found it drastically reduces stress. I focus all my time and energy on my most important task in the morning before switching on my phone, email etc., and then deal with meetings and more menial tasks in the afternoon when my ‘cognitive capacity’ is reduced.

Manage your time spent on your phone. The two most important times are as soon as you wake up, and before you go to sleep. When you wake up, don’t check your phone – if you do fall into this trap, you’ll find yourself in ‘reactive’ mode all day long. Before bed, instead of searching for another hit of dopamine from email, text or social media, stick it on aeroplane mode and let your body actually relax.

Meditate and/or deep breathing. While I’ve never been able to get into meditation, I know many people who swear by it for mental clarity and relief. What I do like though is taking a moment when I catch myself feeling stressed and taking three deep breaths.

Manage your training volume. When you’re going through stressful periods, your training will usually suffer. This all goes back to the stress cup analogy, and our limited capacity to handle stress at any one time. If you’re going through periods of high stress, the key is to keep training. The time you spend in the gym can be a rare moment to catch a break, unplug and channel your energy. What you may want to consider though is adjusting your training volume and intensity. Now isn’t the time for period of super high volume or intensity. It’s the time to just focus on ticking the boxes and ‘checking in’.

Let training be stress relief, not a source of stress. If you’re stuck in a constant state of paralysis by analysis, and wondering whether you should do 2 or 3 sets, high or low volume, squats or deadlifts, you’re wasting time and valuable ‘cup capacity’ on meaningless minutia. That’s why hiring a coach, sticking to the plan and staying focused gets you results.

Eat regular meals. Fasting is growing in popularity, but if you’re someone who’s highly strung and stressed, you want to eat regular meals and avoid skipping breakfast. Remember, fasting is a stress to the body. By eating on time, you’ll be able to manage stress hormone production more effectively.

And a few that require no elaboration…
  • Go for a walk outside
  • Have more sex
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Schedule more fun time with friends and family
Stress is a killer, but if you can get on top of your game and manage stress better, you’ll be well on your way to more muscle, less body fat and a better life.

It’s not going to happen overnight. Learning how to dial in your stress will take months, years and for some, a lifetime. It’s a skill. I’m constantly trying to improve on it, and I know many of you reading this are trying to do the same.

Whenever I speak to people who have mastered the ability to handle stress, the answers are the same:

Try different strategies, experiment, find what works for you and most importantly, stop worrying about bullsh*t. The results are life changing.
Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-selling book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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