Overview: Stress defined: talk about what stress is: overview and HRV info
Stress has always been a part of the human existence, however in society today the shift has been from acute to chronic stress; which, if left unchecked, will begin to take its toll emotionally, behaviorally and physically.
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress can come from many different sources and can be physical, mental or emotional.
- Examples of physical stressors: illness, injury, lack of sleep, over-training, etc.
- Examples of mental stressors: job, time commitments, acute or chronic health issues, financial
- Examples of emotional stressors: Relationships, loss, etc.
There is a difference between acute and chronic stress. The ‘flight or fight’ stress response was developed to deal with acute stressors in our environment. However, our society today is built around a system of chronic stressors. This means that the stress response gets activated repeatedly, chronically releasing stress hormones into the body. This can cause wear and tear on the mind and body.
Effects of Chronic Stress
The list effects that chronic stress can have on the mind and body is long and varied. Effects can range from inconvenient to extremely severe, but all are an indication of a more serious underlying issue. The effects of chronic stress include, but are not limited to:
- Body: muscle tension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, elevated blood sugar, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, alterations in heart rate and central nervous system function, etc.
- Mind: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability, anger, sadness, depression, etc.
- Behavior: over or under eating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol use, tobacco use, social withdrawal, avoidance, etc.
Uncontrolled chronic stress will make training and reaching your goals more difficult. It can reduce the amount of energy you have, affect how your body processes nutrients, cause inflammation and attack the vagal nerve affecting heart rate and blood flow.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Variability in heart rhythms, or heart rate variability is the change in the time intervals between adjacent heartbeats. It is directly related to the body’s interdependent regulatory systems, efficiency and health. Unlike Heart Rate (HR) that averages the number of heart beats per minute, HRV looks much closer at the small fluctuations of the heart that occur in response to internal and external events. HRV is a direct link to your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and can therefore be used to gain insights into your nervous system, stress and recovery activity. A specifically programmed HR monitor can measure the variable time between R points (peaks of ECG waves). An optimal level of HRV within a person reflects healthy function and an inherent self-regulatory capacity, adaptability, or resilience; generally, the greater the HRV, the better; however:
- Too much variability, or instability “such as arrhythmias or nervous system chaos is detrimental to efficient physiological functioning and energy utilization.
- Too little variation indicates age-related system depletion, chronic stress, pathology, or inadequate functioning in various levels of self-regulatory control systems.
Knowledge is power. By applying the appropriate calculations to Heart Rate Variability (Elite HRV does that for you), you can better understand your nervous systems, cardiovascular systems, and respiratory systems in response to life’s stressors. By acting on your HRV biofeedback insights, you can optimize your training, manage stress, improve health, and maximize your performance in life.
- Keep a simple journal, taking note of any symptoms of chronic stress that you might be experiencing.
- Remember that there are physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms
- Note if any of the symptoms occur at specific times during the day or after specific events;
- Try to identify reoccurring stressors that may be causing symptoms you noted in your journal.
- Remember stressors can come from many different areas and in many different forms.
- Identify at least one stress management technique that you feel will make a difference for you.
- We will talk about this in more detail in the following weeks.
- If you have purchased a HR monitor through Fluid and are participating in the HRV tracking:
- If you have gotten away from tracking and journaling – this is a great time to get back in the habit.
- If you are unsure on how to track or interpret your data, contact your trainer or Ryan for more information.