Stressed or overstressed?
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
One of the basic foundations of coaching is applying the correct amount of stress to an athlete's body and mind such that the stress response brings about balance and homeostasis at a new and adapted physical and mental status.
But what is the stress response?
It is the neuroendocrine control system that influences behavior, including biochemical messengers such as serotonin, cortisol, epinephrine, etc., that serve to control nerve activity, regulate information flow, and, ultimately, influence behavior and physical response. These control systems mediate the physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to stressors that, taken together, are called the stress response.
By definition, the stress response is a normal, coordinated physiologic system meant to increase the probability of survival, but it is also designed to be an acute response. It is turned on when necessary to bring the body back to a stable state and turned off when the challenge to homeostasis abates.
It involves a sensor to detect the change in physical and/or behavioral balance, an integrator to sum all incoming data and compare them with “normal,” and effector(s) to try to reverse the change overcoming the stressor and prepare the body and mind for a future contact with the same stressor.
The term allostasis has been used by some investigators to describe the physiologic changes in the neuroendocrine, autonomic, and immune systems that occur in response to either real or perceived challenges to body's homeostasis and balance.
Sometimes, the stress response cannot restore balance and homeostasis. That can bring about adverse physical and psychological experiences that can impact health - not only overtraining or burnout conditions, but also mental health issues, immune dysregulations, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and cancer.
Reviewing with your coach potential situations (such as lack of rest, poor nutrition, excessive load of physical activity) that could lead to overtraining and burnout condition can diminish the risk of suffering these health conditions.
But what about our non-exercise related daily life, such as work or personal and familial relationships that can produce excessive stressful situations and conditions? Can they produce health-associated conditions like overtraining or burnout?
The persistence or accumulation of some of allostatic changes - such as immunosuppression or activation of the sympathetic nervous and systems that regulate the body's blood pressure and water - has been called an allostatic load or overload and it is used to measure the cumulative effects of stress on humans.
How can we avoid this allostatic overload and prevent its effects on our health?
Stress experts suggest that it is beneficial to actively pursue balance. For instance, we might keep a reflective journal of interactions with individuals or situations that may ordinarily cause us stress, and look for new methods of communication to cope with these individuals or situations. In this way, we may lessen the negative impact of our daily interactions with stressful individuals/situations, resulting in physiologic benefits.
Furthermore, if we can have an active role in maintaining a sense of balance, the brain may attempt to reorganize itself for the future and potentially improve emotional balance, flexibility, immune and cardiac function, and increase the ability to empathize.
Another strategy is recalling previous successful experiences and envisioning future scenarios to help to be more prepared to manage future stressful experiences.
Your certified coach can help you to reduce the negative effects of stress for improved adaptation and better enjoyment of life!