You Cannot Ignore Emotional Stress

I threw a fit yesterday. Picture a toddler first screaming at the top of their lungs then lying down on the ground and stomping their feet and crying. Yup, I did that. Right in the middle of an interval. As someone kindly said, I’m authentic. Sure, let’s go with that!

I had completely ignored not only my physical stress from the big workout I did on Monday night but also the emotional stress of thinking about the death of Coach Andy Higgins all day Tuesday. When I tried to start another big workout yesterday morning, of course, it failed my body was in no way shape or form remotely recovered.

Stress I learned the other week, on the Rogue Running Podcast Human Performance series, falls under three categories; physical, emotional and chemical. For the purposes of today, the discussion will centre around emotional stress.

What is emotional stress? It’s the stress on your brain. Work stress. Family stress. Life stress. It’s the weight of the world that you carry on your shoulders. Late for an appointment, I bet your stress levels go up. Stuck in traffic, yup, stress goes up again. Working away in your office while two chatty-Cathys won’t stop gibbering while you’re trying to concentrate, yup, that too is emotional stress.

A couple of years ago I read some the work of Kelly McGonigal, she is a stress researcher out of Stanford. Stress sits near the top for a leader in why people die and we also know it contributes to other diseases that harm us or eventually kill us. Now the good news, we do actually have some control over our stress and we can sometimes turn those reactions around and have a courage reaction instead of a panic reaction. Short story, McGonigal’s work is fascinating.

Alongside trying to change your interactions with stress and minimize the amount of stress in your life where possible, it might also be a good idea to track the stress in your life like you might track training. On those really stressful days, yes while exercise will help buffer the effects of stress, it may also impact other areas of your life. If you’re training you may need to adjust the workout. If you have a mentally engaging task you want to do at night, you may have to adjust what you do.

Stress is a reality for everyone. We have some control over how we engage with that stress. Recognize when you might have stressful days and just plan for the extra burden, instead of pretending that it does not exist. I think your life might be better for it.