Blog Post by IFBB Pro Women’s Bodybuilder Kahla Bullemor
Financial concerns, career changes, loss of job, exams, relationship issues, families, children, injuries, health concerns, expectations you place on yourself and by others, all of these are common stress factors that we are bound to suffer at some point in our lives. With Christmas and New Year fast approaching this can also cause additional stress, with all the hustle and bustle, additional expenses, unfulfilled expectations and family dynamics. This is also the time of year where I reflect upon the last 12 months and evaluate my progress in relation to the goals I set for myself and where I am at.
When you are placed in a position of stress, your heart beats faster, breathing increases, muscles become tense, and sugars, fats and hormones such as cortisol are released into the bloodstream. If the stressful situation dissipates, the body’s functions return to normal and consequently no harm done. However, if stress becomes chronic, your body doesn’t have a chance to return to normal, which may result in a number of negative physical effects severely impacting your health, body, mind and potentially those around you.
We all go through different levels of stress at difference stages of our lives. The way we deal and manage stress is very unique to each individual. We experience different stress triggers, therefore what is stressful to one person may be insignificant to another. For example, fear of heights to one person, is a sheer adrenalin rush for another. Standing on stage in a bikini is someone’s worst nightmare, whilst on the other hand is another’s most memorable and rewarding experience. Public speaking for one person is very empowering, whereas for another it is the worst experience they could possibly imagine.
When stress becomes chronic causing anxiety or depression, some turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, smoking and drinking too much. On the flip side, others sail through difficulties by reflecting upon all the positives aspects of their lives and take a glass half full approach. Stress is said to be a mental perception, chosen by the perceiver. Therefore, while you can’t eliminate all stress from your life, you can choose to respond to it in a healthier way. Learn to manage stress and look for the lessons you can learn from the situation, to become a better person and to prevent placing yourself in that position again.
Identify the cause of stress
Usually when people get to a point of significant stress, it isn’t based on one large issue at hand, it’s generally a combination of many small things that eventually come to a head. Stress is unavoidable as we live in a world where many factors stimulate stress, such as: physical (illness, injury and aging), emotional (grief, loss, unrealistic expectations fear and disappointments) environmental (pollution, chemicals), national (politics, financial crises and terrorism).
Eliminate those stress elements which you can
There are some stressful situations which are clearly unavoidable, however other stressful situations we invite upon ourselves. For example, offering to help someone move house when you don’t have the time, means or you have an injury, rather than being honest and simply stating that you are not in a position to help. Over committing yourself to too many people and burning the candle at both ends, instead of prioritising each request and making an executive decision which is right decision for you. Before making any promises or jumping at the chance to offer your assistance, you need to stop, breathe and focus. Conduct a risk vs. benefits assessment and identify what is the desired outcome? This process allows you to be conscious and focused in the moment so that you can decide if taking on one more thing is going to do more harm than good, for all parties involved but most importantly for yourself.
For those which can’t be eliminated, put them into perspective
In order to assess the scale of the situation, ask yourself will this matter in 5 years time? Will I even remember it, or will I look back and laugh at myself for stressing over something like this?
If it won’t matter in years to come and the likelihood of remembering is low, than the situation is trivial. In other words, if what’s keeping you up at night is helping someone to move house, when you really can’t, keep in mind that by next week it will be over with. Or better yet, face the problem head on and let them know that you have over committed and although you are very sorry you are not able to help at this time. If they are true friends and know you well, they will understand. If they don’t, then they are not worth having in your world anyway.
Solve minor issues before they become major issues
If you deal with small problems when they occur this may prevent the escalation into a major issue and blow out of the matter at hand. Just the same as when you feel a niggling injury and you back off on your training for a while. You back off training to prevent a minor injury turning into a major injury, such as tearing a muscle or tendon which may then require surgery.
Reach out to friends/family for support
Friendship is not always about sharing the good, it’s about asking for help and supporting each other during times of need. Invite a friend to have coffee and talk through some of the issues you are dealing with. Sometimes just talking through things out loud provides clarity and possibly answers you are seeking. Reach out to those who know you best, know how you tick and understand your history and what your future goals ahead entail.
Also reach out to those who may have had similar experiences to what you are dealing with to ascertain how they coped and got through to the other side successfully. Most importantly, remember that favors don’t always have to be paid back immediately you’ll have your opportunity to return the favor to your friends/family sooner than you think. Those that truly care about you want to see you happy and back to your positive self, therefore by reaching out to them, this is actually doing them a favour also because they want the happy you back.
Take care of your health, mind and body, so you are better equipped to handle stressful situations
You need to make sure you are getting enough rest/sleep, ensure your nutritional requirements are all met, through your meal and supplement plan and incorporate a consistent exercise regime, which you will stick to and enjoy. Exercise is known as a tool to alleviate anxiety. Something as simple as taking a walking outside, on the beach, or going to the gym will all help to remove stress.
Avoid all negative people and situations, excessive alcohol and any other trigger which causes you stress. Do things that you enjoy and provide you peace of mind and relaxation, take time out for yourself. If you are not healthy, happy and well, you are of no use to anyone, including yourself.
My reflections and some lessons learnt this year
I am very fortunate to have encountered a bit of tough love over the past month from some very dear friends. These friends of mine basically saved me from my stress becoming too chronic and helped me out of a dark place which I was in. I didn’t even have to ask, they knew something was not quite right which I hadn’t even identified myself. Sometimes you are so caught up, so busy that you don’t even realise you are slowing going downhill.
I have learnt that sometimes you can be too kind and too giving at your own detriment and you need a good kick up the butt to realise that your needs and goals are, if not more important than those around you. You need to prioritise, you need to ascertain those people who really need your help and those that don’t. Ascertain what and how much of yourself you can give to others and how much you can’t.
If you give too much of yourself away you can spiral into a very dark place and the stress and anxiety can become too overwhelming to find a way out. If you have been in this place you may understand what I am saying. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, evaluate your life to identify the good from the bad and all things for and against your path to reaching your goals. Remove the negative aspects and work on the positive elements in your life. Don’t regret what you cannot change, work on what you can and don’t make the same mistakes again. Find your true self again and be the person you really deserve to be. Most importantly learn that it is ok to say no and always put yourself and your own needs first, otherwise you are no good to anyone.
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