Is stress bad? (Elite Functional Fitness)

About this time last year, Mychael at Elite Functional Fitness asked a simple question in a blog post. Is stress bad?

As he puts it – “Easy answer, no. But…”

Yoga-Poses-stylized-1-coloredStress boils down to some factor (physical, mental, or emotional) that creates bodily or mental tension. And that tension, caused by either external or internal forces, triggers our fight or flight response, which is essentially a combination of neural and endocrine systems firing off.

He goes on to talk about the two major systems that need to be in balance for stress to work properly. There’s the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS slows heart rate, works with digestion, and helps us recover. The SNS does the opposite – raising heart rate, helping focus, and improving blood flow to muscles we need to fight or flight. They both do a ton more, but this simplified explanation is enough for now.

Basically stress is bad when these systems are out of whack. Our lives are full of SNS stressors – our jobs and personal lives are full of stress and we add to that by trying to fit in our workouts. But we don’t usually give ourselves time to recover and de-stress, letting the PNS do its work. So the SNS and PNS fall out of balance. We want to rev up our systems and return them to a good resting state when we’re done, not stay in that “fight or flight” mode all the time.

Mychael recommends some solid breathing exercises (and includes a link in his post) to help transition between the two modes after a workout. By letting both systems do their work, we can improve recovery, digest food (helping with weight maintenance), and improve our energy levels. If our bodies aren’t so stressed out, they work much better.

Here’s the original post from the Elite Functional Fitness site.

He’s definitely not alone in noting the effects of stress on our systems. Here are a few other articles on the topic:

How do YOU deal with stress in your life and as a CrossFit athlete? Leave comments below with some suggestions!

Be sure to check out Mychael’s Elite Functional Fitness Facebook page for more!