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The Stresses of Life
A decade ago, I came up with this idea. It’s called the Stresses of Life. The idea was birthed from my studies as a physiologist. Exercise science is an industry based on discovering the condition of the body and determining the stress required to elicit a result. Improve your health, recover from injury, and maintain a high quality of life. These items fall under Physical Stress.
We take Physical Stress for granted, especially when we’re young. Young people never worry about the microtrauma they introduce to their system until, one day, you’re not young anymore. When you’re young, the body is resilient. Now, things get too sore. They even hurt when they shouldn’t.
An arm gives out when we return to the gym and we don’t know how it happened. I know how it happens. Spent over a decade helping people recover and avoid making a similar mistake. The human body is designed to move with the understanding that movement early on won’t be so great. We take advantage of that resilience. Mistaking lack of pain, or the lack of awareness of pain, for being correct technique. Lifting poorly in the gym for our entire lives until something finally breaks.
That’s when Physical Stress becomes noticeable. When we encounter too much. It is the job of professionals like me to examine where you are physically before we put you into a program. Any amount of physical activity, exercise, or fitness program can be an inappropriate stress depending on the intent of the program and the person doing it. It’s not the individual activity. It’s the person who should’ve never been involved in that activity. Shouldn’t take an injury to find out.
Physical Stress under proper supervision is crucial to achieving your goals. Weight loss, body comp, fitness, sports and rehabilitation are all possible through Physical Stress. Elite athletes can compete because their bodies have adapted so well to the activity that their minds are free to read and process information. Fatigue is no longer a factor.
Physical Stress should not leave you debilitated. It should not result in an injury. Without the knowledge and wisdom of a professional, odds are you’re dangerous enough to find the information. “How” to lift. Not muscles involved, range of motion, how to engage, but the general idea of how to lift. The sets, reps, and weight. Wearing their bodies down only to deem those activities are harmful when in fact they are only inappropriate stressors in your current condition.
My goal, and the goal of every professional, is to help your body function optimally, which requires Physical Stress. Applied appropriately, it will balance out your hormones, limiting the negative and eliciting the positive. Prepare your body for any situation and maintain the natural resilience. Enabling you to live the life you desire as long as humanly possible. Helping negate the impact of excessive stressors.
Physical Stress is the one of the first stresses that comes to your mind when you want to make a change. The other stress that is always at the top of our minds is Dietary Stress. However, it’s not what you think.
Dietary stress involves the what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. The why doesn’t matter and thus it’s often flimsy, hence all the fad diets that exist out there.
Dietary stress is the ability for your body, your gut, to maintain regularity. You aren’t dramatically impacted by the slightest deviations in the food you eat. When you are easily bloated, become overly fatigued, can’t recognize how full you are, or the most obvious, you develop immediate gastrointestinal distress; we know that you have limited your dietary stress. It’s fascinating to me to see the rise of so many diets that regulate when you eat. It’s been one of the key limiting factors in dietary stress.
Fasting is popular because, in a 9 to 5 work till you die, lifestyle eating becomes a nuisance. We don’t have the time. Meaning you’ll never eat when you’re supposed to and how much you’re supposed to. What you eat and when you eat, and how much you eat, becomes random. At least with fasting, you get to eat once or twice a day, and have all day to figure out what you want to eat. Another odd benefit is that when you only eat once or twice, you often are more considerate of the nutrition of what you eat.
There have been many cultures and civilizations around the world that didn’t deal with the obesity crisis of today. To say that there is only one way to eat would negate real-world examples of the various forms of eating humans developed to survive. Many of which still exist to this day. The key ingredient being limiting the variables that we associate with our diet. The when and how much are simple. The difficulty in optimal dietary stress comes with what to eat.
We all have a friend or family member that eats the same thing all the time. Their diet is fairly strict and they don’t even notice or mind. Yet, they have been able to control their body size and health with regularity. Part of this is controlling dietary stress. Sure, they may require vitamins to supplement what they are missing in their diet, but they are otherwise high functioning. Ideally, you have a balanced diet filled with all the nutrients you require.
However, the most important thing to recognize and control is that limiting the variables in your eating will help you return to homeostasis. Avoiding the bloating or the upset stomach because of the food at the wedding. Going on vacation and not worried about blowing up 30lbs because of a week of altered eating.
The more regulated you can be, the better. The more nutrients and spices you're exposed to, the better off your gut health. Your gut deals with all kinds of stress. To put it in a position where it cannot is difficult to do. By spending years throwing the kitchen sink at your gut.
A properly stressed gut will not let you down. Reducing the episodes of getting sick, running to the bathroom, and bloating. You’ll be able to enjoy the spices of life. Especially if you have control of your physical stress. The more stress you can control in your life, the less you will be impacted by inappropriate amounts of stress. We speak about the physical and the dietary because they are the easiest stressors to deal with.
The benefits of correcting them are felt immediately. An endorphin rush after practice. Feeling energized and organized when you know exactly what you’re going to eat and when. There’s a power and confidence that comes with it because you’re actually easing your mental stress. More on that one later.
Intellectual stress is the ability to receive new information. We’ve already talked about information, knowledge, and wisdom. Discussed how we all learn differently. We aren’t asking if you’re smart or dumb. Actually, intellectual stress explains how people who aren’t “book smart” adapt and evolve in their learning.
Lack of intellectual stress limits your ability to think critically. When presented with information, you can use it as intended. Connect all the dots. Problem solve. Without it, you can be presented with all the information in the world. It won’t matter. You can’t keep it. It’s not that you lack the ability. You simply refuse to entertain it. Avoiding the exercise and the critical thinking that comes when presented with new information.
Focusing on the perimeter of information. Reading the titles of articles of listening to someone else explain it because it’s easier. Requires less effort. Making those reducing the capacity of those who can process information. Allowing them to fall in line with those who lack the ability to think critically. Using information alone as your guide and treating all information equally. The concept of knowledge and wisdom matters less and less. It escapes you in your own daily practice because it’s just more noise in an echo chamber.
The idea of an education system is to stress students intellectually. Forcing them to receive information and think critically to advance… until their parents demand they be passed, anyway.
Intellectual stress requires you to be exposed to information and think. Have a reaction or response, even if it’s an exercise in your mind. The more exposure you have to information, the better you can process it. Absorbing the crucial information. A necessity in the real world. All professions require you to stay up to date with the industry. Continuing education is mandatory in so many fields to remain a licensed, competent professional. By design, eliminating those who cannot handle the intellectual stress of the industry or simply refuse to.
Knowledge gained from experience combined with research into your field gives you all the tools to be successful. Maintain the integrity of the profession. Again, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist. Just process new information which the accrued knowledge and wisdom of the industry deems valuable. Determine which information is valuable for yourself. Based on the information being presented to you.
Conspiracy theories and cults thrive on those struggling with intellectual stress. Which is why even successful, well-educated people are just as susceptible to them as the poor and uneducated.
Limiting your intellectual stress means you don’t recognize bad faith arguments. Being exposed to faulty logic without taking the time to question that logic. Arguing against the conversation that would require you to think critically. It’s not the subject.
When you run into a person with actual knowledge and wisdom, your lack of intellectual stress will cause you to ignore their knowledge and experience. Often avoiding the conversation because you don’t have the bandwidth. More often than not, you choose not to have it. That habit creates an inability to combat faulty logic. Bringing you back to a childish square one as if you’ve never even encountered the concept. Thoughts and reflections create frustrations, which generate Emotional Stress.
Emotional stress is your ability to feel and recognize your own emotions. It does not deny or avoid them. Denying or avoiding your emotions leads to a lack of Emotional Stress. When you can’t avoid that emotion, perhaps jealousy, anger, fear, etc. the experience is overwhelming. All the energy of the emotions you have repressed come to the surface. Uncontrollably.
Think about children. An important part of their youth is encountering these new emotions. Jealousy, happiness, anger, excitement. We understand children that have a dramatic response to them. They’ve never encountered them, or at least to this degree, before this moment. How else would you expect them to react?
Yet, with age, we are supposed to understand our emotions. Not control them. Not predict them. Just recognize what we’re feeling and how we’re acting. Unfortunately, it’s easier to run away from them and pretend they don’t exist. Every emotion is a natural part of our human experience. It’s ok to face them because in doing so we learn from them. Learn about ourselves. Only through experience can we properly experience emotions. If we have difficulties with your emotions, there are professionals with the tools to help you understand them or even cope at some level.
It’s okay to cry regardless of how society defines you. I’ll rephrase it and say that again for the people in the back. It’s okay to cry regardless of the expectations or limits that society has put on you. You can and will get angry or upset. It’s okay to be happy. Believe it or not, there are people who refuse to be happy. It’s not just negative emotions we avoid. Because you might be afraid of the eventual feeling of sadness. Thus, you refuse to be happy, believing somehow it will save you from the pain of sadness. Which is impossible no matter how hard you try to remain dull. Yes, some emotions are unpleasant. It’s how we conceptualize our situation and react that is important. Which gets us into the hardest stress to control, Mental Stress.
Mental stress is how we perceive and react to the world. It’s taking in all the other forms of stress and deciding based on that knowledge. Perhaps, even reducing the Status of our stress into information we can acknowledge and move forward with. It’s not easy, but we’re literally born doing it. We get exposed to mental stress a lot in our youth. Ideally, learning how to adapt to our situation. Which should prepare us for dealing with adverse situations. With all the tools, you should be successful… right?
We know this is not true. Plenty of people hesitate, freeze, or make poor decisions after poor decision once they are put into a difficult situation. Again, that’s not a bad thing. It is a necessary part of our development. Hopefully, we’ll make the right moves at the right time. Even in extremely stressful situations.
Limiting Mental Stress forces most people to breakdown. We love the greatness of athletes because they are able to set aside everything else to accomplish the task at hand. Where most everyone else has failed, they found a way to succeed.
The world isn’t working the way we thought it should. Leaving us to claw for the world we used to believe in. If we are incapable of adapting to a new world perspective, we can lash out at the world. Fighting against a reality, feeling the walls of the world closing in. Not because you fully believe it. It’s because the way you perceive the world is based on a construct. A guiding light that makes sense of the world. Thus, once it’s challenged, it is challenging your entire sensibility and the foundation of your world. Regardless of how ridiculous and outdated it may seem.
This is the most controversial stressors I have to define. Possibly because the Stresses of Life is a tool for controlling Mental Stress. It’s a way of thinking about the world around you that can help you react to it. If we can agree that mental stress is how we perceive the world, it is not far-reaching to say that theology falls into this category.
Okay, here we go. The modern generation has been accused of moving on from religion. I beg to differ. In fact, I believe that there are more religious than ever. More schools of belief people have created just to take place of the religion they have supposedly run away from. Faith has not disappeared. The hubris of youth has just led us to Yoga studios, fitness classes, cult of personality like Tony Robbins, and more.
I remember listening to a content creator talk about mental health. Today, we have so many categories of love languages and self diagnosed conditions that it too has become its own religion. This is how I define my actions and behaviors, my guiding light. I will teach anyone and everyone the tenants of this text of love languages.
If you don’t identify with it, it’s because of your own ignorance and lack of self-awareness. How could you not believe? Think about CrossFit at its peak. If you spoke out against any part or concept of CrossFit, people would be down your necks. It meant more than just a workout.
I found a group. All dress the same way and buy the same clothes. We have our leaders, our role models, our sayings and slogans tattooed on our bodies. We get married at our place of worship, whoops; I mean gym. Even with yoga. How you look, what type of yoga you do, what you wear, it had been co-opted as a religion. Frequently, before it’s become quite en vogue now, I would attempt to point out to other professionals how cult like it has become.
This is the reason I have framed Mental Stress in such a way. I am in the generation that moved away from organized religion only to find new prophets on the internet. Yet, they do not realize what they do. There was a very valid reason people moved away from religious establishments.
Trust me, I grew up catholic. Only when we come of age, and have children of our own, did we suddenly realize how lost we were. All these groups are not inherently bad. They are a place to socialize, express your troubles and demons, seek advice, make honest connections and believe in something bigger than yourself.
It didn’t take long for us to do the same thing with every other aspect of our lives. Leading to today where people defend celebrities they’ve never met like their life depends on it. Where political identity is as essential as your bloodlines to be considered family.
The reason we can’t talk about it isn’t because it’s taboo. People have developed their entire mental stress structure around this one idea.
Mental stress isn’t about avoiding challenging situations. It’s about recognizing the situation and making the most out of it. It’s understanding what the universe has presented to you and figuring out a way to succeed in the face of adversity. Sometimes, many adversities.
Think About Sports
Everyone knows what to do. They know where the balls going. They know how many points they need and the time left. Only a few of us can take all of that information and actually respond to it. Understanding the situation and the world and making the right decisions at the right time.
Mental toughness comes from having a solid perspective. In sports, it’s making the right play or decision. Perhaps having faith in your own abilities allows you to be mentally tough. Perhaps having faith in a higher power allows you to move with purpose. Whatever it is, encountering a new, or perhaps extremely adverse, situation and understanding how to respond comes from mental stress.
Avoiding it is a disservice. As those who do cannot handle changes to their situation. They haven’t encountered it; they haven’t thought of it, and they definitely won’t make the right choice. Again, we are supposed to learn this as children.
How did we learn to walk?
Well, we got it in our minds that walking was necessary to join the world of the giants. With that thought alone, we pursued it with reckless abandon. When we finally could stand and walk, we suddenly became frustrated that we could not reach what we wanted. After our burst of emotions, we started climbing, got back up and the rest is history.
Stress is a Necessity
Stress is a good thing. It helps us succeed in life and becomes great. All creatures on this planet must adapt to stress in order to survive. The Stresses of Life are just a method for understanding the world around you. Giving you the tools to ease your mental stress. Not only with what you believe, but also with what you encounter. Even if you lack control of your Emotional Stress and intellectual stress, you can rely on the control you have of the Physical and Mental Stress.
The Stresses of Life require you to control at least two and ideally three of your stresses. The more you can control, the more factors you can rely on when you face an inappropriate stress. Control over the Physical and Dietary limits the impacts of excessive stress.
When you encounter excessive Intellectual or Emotional stress, you have something else to fall back on. The idea is to face stress. Just like a child faces the stress of learning to stand, walk, and talk. Now, we face the stress to find a balance in our lives. Becoming the person we hope to be the only way possible. By facing the trials and tribulations required to become great.
About the Creator
NCSA Strength and Conditioning Professional certified as a CSCS, TSAC-F, and CPT. I have my FMS Certification as well, and spent over a decade working with athletes in various sports. Including youth, high school, college, Olympic and Pro.