Stress. Just reading the word can make you feel it.
A 2017 study by the research-based consulting company, Gallup Inc. found that 8 out of 10 Americans are stressed. But you’re probably not surprised.
Additionally, Gallup released their 2017 Global Emotions Report, which surveys 154,000 people in 145 countries all over the world to basically see how they are feeling. The report measures their worry, stress, sadness, anger and pain. The results in 2017 showed a score of 30, the highest negative rating in a decade, with a 2 point increase in the stress category.
It seems that we are more and more aware of the rising level of stress in our lives, yet we can’t escape it.
In an effort to find ways to decrease stress, sometimes we actually end up increasing it. For instance, we turn to technology to simplify our lives, registering for new services and uploading apps, all in an effort to save time and money while reducing stress.
Simultaneously, with exposure and access to more than ever before, especially through social media, we feel like we have to do more, be more, buy more. As obligations pile up, living expenses rise, and the expectations of us as parents, partners, friends and employees grow, the stress comes back tenfold. Though the advances of this modern world we live in provide great positivity in our lives, we also take the bad with the good.
So here we are, more stressed than ever because our apps have glitches and we are overbooked with obligations and, for the life of us, we just can’t remember that darn password.
So what can we do to finally reduce the stress? Find an outlet. Exercise being the primary one.
That thing you do, nay that thing you dominate, here at CKO. Exercise. It is THE best way to take stress and put it in its place; Americans know this. In fact 53% of Americans exercise or take part in physical activity in an effort to cope with stress. The number of Americans who exercise to combat stress has risen each year for the past three years. Why? Because it works.
Exercise is a cure-all. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America encourages exercise for its ability to improve us physically, help us fight disease, maintain mental fitness and reduce stress. Therefore, how can we afford to not exercise?
Study after study has proven the impact that exercise has in reducing stress. Here are a few:
(The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 2008)
Findings: Twenty minutes of physical activity a week can reduce stress. “…the more strenuous and frequent the activity, the greater the effect on mental health.”
(via a Princeton University research team, 2013)
Findings: Those who exercise regularly, when facing stressors, experience less anxiety than those who do not exercise regularly.
(University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2017)
Findings: Those who exercise in a group setting increase their mental, physical and emotional health far more than those who exercise individually. Group exercise also shows a 26.2% reduction in perceived stress levels.
Most studies find that it takes 20-30 minutes of continuous exercise for the mind and body to start battling the stress and bringing the calm. And it all starts with cortisol.
If you feel stressed on a regular basis, your cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) are probably too high. Don’t go hating on cortisol completely. We need cortisol to survive, as it is responsible for our “fight or flight” responses, as well as day-to-day body maintenance such as boosting our energy and regulating our blood pressure.
Elevated cortisol levels, however, contribute to anxiety and depression, weight gain, sleep issues, headaches, heart disease, memory and concentration problems and digestion issues (WebMD.) Ouch! Thank goodness for exercise, which fights back against those yucky feelings that high cortisol levels are responsible for.
Your brain recognizes exercise as a form of “stress,” automatically generating the release of cortisol, decreasing its levels in your body. Lower levels of cortisol help us feel happier and calmer. As we continue to exercise we are then able to reach that “runner’s high” and all those good satisfying feelings we get during and post exercise.
Speaking of those good feelings, let’s talk about those endorphins.
Endorphins are magic. You can go into your workout angry at the world and come out with a grin on your face and an attitude as positive as Olaf.
Our body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, are mood boosters in our brains, giving us feelings of relaxation, serenity and optimism during and after a workout. As we exercise the brain releases these neurotransmitters, masking the physical pain we might naturally feel from the workout and putting us in a good mood.
That high we feel after a workout can last for 2 hours and then give us a buzz for up to 24 hours. Pretty powerful little chemicals.
GETTING THE MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Any exercise can be helpful in reducing stress but cardio kickboxing takes the cake.
For one, it’s you vs. the bag. Punching a bag helps relieve muscle tension. You can let the stresses of your day out on that poor old bag (let’s call him, Hank) and not feel the least bit bad about it. All your pent up negative feelings can leave your body and fall on Hank.
Second, the CKO workout requires you to perform moderate to high intensity exercise, which is the range of intensity that results in the highest release of endorphins.
Lastly, cardio kickboxing, CKO in particular, takes focus. Not so much focus that you’re straining but just enough to make you forget about the stressors in your life. In order to complete the workout you have to let everything else go and focus solely on your body and the combos your instructor gives out. With your brain lacking the capacity to let the stresses of your day enter in, you are able to have a complete, stress-reducing, endorphin-releasing workout.
ADDITIONAL WAYS TO UNPLUG
It’s amazing what happens to your brain, body, and outlook when you unplug through exercise. Though exercise is the best way to fight stress, combining it with other stress-reducing activities can further your well-being.
It seems that the practice of meditation has been around since earth came to be. Recently, a form of meditation called mindfulness has been buzzing about everywhere. The objective behind mindfulness meditation is to bring all of your awareness to one object; doing so has proven to decrease stress and anxiety.
By aiming to increase your overall awareness, you become present. You then are unable to do what the human brain does naturally; worry about what happened in the past and fret about what may take place in the future. Being present keeps those feelings at bay.
And it doesn’t require you to be seated in silence in a meditation class; you can practice it anywhere, even as you workout.
One of the many reasons why the CKO Kickboxing workout is so powerful is that it gives you an opportunity to practice being present. In order to maintain proper technique and complete your workout, you have be present in what you are doing with your body, leaving all the other stressors in your life outside the gym door.
PHONE A FRIEND
Human beings need others to survive and look to each other for emotional support. Having that sense of community in our lives, like we do here at CKO, provides us an outlet and a feeling of belonging and understanding. Obviously, that feels good.
The act of venting our acute and chronic stress to someone we trust gives us an opportunity for release. And through this release we can better understand our stress, developing ways to battle back against it.
LEARN TO SAY NO
Many people feel the need to say, “yes” to additional tasks and activities in order to be kind and helpful to others. That’s great and all, until those added responsibilities make you want to pull your hair out when you realize the unnecessary added stress you’ve signed up for.
Tell yourself that it’s okay to say “no.” You can’t be helpful to others if you’re not first helping yourself. Remember that diagram on the airplane pamphlet showing the adult putting her air mask on first and THEN the child’s? Well it just goes to show that if you can’t breathe you sure as heck can’t help others breathe.
“When you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘No’ to yourself.” -Paulo Coelo
We are what we eat and if we feel healthy, our body and mind follows suit. Eating clean in essence is eating real food; food that comes from the earth without those added ingredients that you can’t pronounce, let alone know what they even are.
Clean eating means passing on those processed foods as much as you can. Instead, turning to fruits and vegetables will provide you with the fiber, vitamins and minerals that you need to stay healthy, reduce fatigue and stress.
Certain foods like turkey, blueberries, eggs, yogurt and dark leafy greens boost your serotonin levels, those awesome feel good chemicals that help us say “Later, Stress!”
Real foods high in antioxidants and rich in omega-3 fats also lend themselves well in decreasing your stress. Note: Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants so you can still satisfy your sweet tooth when eating clean.
GET OUT IN NATURE
Stepping away from our cell phone and basking in natural surroundings has a profound effect on our well-being. You feel healthier and happier when surrounded by nature. Whether it’s the rustling of the trees, the trickling of a creek or waves crashing on the shore, nature just does something for our souls.
Picture this: A packed subway car, full of commuters running this way and that. Or the rush of shoppers on Black Friday, scouring the shelves, darting to grab what they can. Neither feel like a stress-free zone; however, the opposite of these scenes, that being nature, does.
FINDING TIME TO UNPLUG
Perhaps you’re so busy and overwhelmed that you’ll need to look at your calendar to see when you can even fit “Unplug” into your day.
For many people even finding time for an hour workout can be challenging. But perhaps it helps to know that with the amount of effort it may take for you to get to the gym, the benefits pay off in extraordinary ways.
So going forward, grab your calendar and literally write, “Unplug” in a timeslot and make a concerted effort to take that time for yourself. We schedule meetings for the sake of our jobs, why not schedule unplugging for the sake of our lives?