The reason I’m so passionate about movement as stress management is because 1) it’s effective; and 2) stress is the single largest thing, with an impact on nearly every facet of our lives, that we have some ability to control. This is why it’s so important to find ways to manage stress. It isn’t about buzzwords like self-care and self-love at its core. It’s about self-preservation.
There are different types of stress, and they impact our bodies differently. Did you know that exercise itself is a form of short-term stress?! It is! Not all stress is bad – it allows us to build resilience, so we can better-handle stress in the future. If we are not properly managing that stress though, it will eventually lead to exhaustion. Short-term stress can certainly have an impact over time, but unless you’re a person who experiences this type of stress regularly (fire fighter, paramedic/doctor/nurse/etc.), it’s the long-term stress that is of much bigger concern.
The impacts of long-term stress, even before the point of exhaustion, are extensive. Stress permeates everything from our sleep, appetite, and mood to our ability to fight infection and avoid chronic disease. This is why I keep harping on the fact that lifestyle changes don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with nutrition or physical activity. Stress comes from so many other areas of life and is just as important to manage for our overall health. For example, having a great movement routine and nutritious eating habits, but detesting your job or being in an unhealthy relationship isn’t likely to result in a happy, stress-free life. It’s about so much more than just activity and nutrition.
I know this can look overwhelming, but I want this to feel empowering. I think it can feel incredibly discouraging when the road to health seems to be paved with resistance training and low carb meals, but the truth is much more complicated and overarching. And it’s much more personalized than a plan any one person can give us. Health can come from finally handling things that have been put off like communicating feelings or cleaning out that catch-all junk closet. It can come from standing up for ourselves and our needs in any number of situations or from being selfless. It can come from committing to taking a 5-minute walk in the middle of the day or saying ‘no’ when we feel like we “should” say ‘yes’.
The myth that able-bodied people who look a certain way are the only ones to embody health prevents us from having these real discussions. Health is about the things we feel we have to suppress, and the lack of time to figure out what we really need. It isn’t about completing a workout, eating certain foods, and magically feeling better. Stress relief isn’t one-size fits all, and it can take some time to figure out what works in which situation. Yes, we have to do the work, but it’s so worth it because it is about so much more than what we see in the mirror. It’s about what our souls need; the physical body’s appreciation will naturally follow.