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  • Writer's pictureAndy Fortuna

Empty your Stress Cup

This is an important concept to understand.

Too often we push our bodies over the limit without even noticing. This tends to happen gradually and rarely from one day to the next.

What I'm speaking about is stress. Specifically, distress.

Distress is the body's inability to adequately meet the demands being faced.

Our bodies do not understand the difference between stressors but only the magnitude and impact on the body.

For example, whether you are having a bad day at work, caring for a crying toddler, or running away from a lion for survival, the body doesn't understand the difference in situation and provides the same reaction, a cocktail of hormones and reflexes to help you survive.

Formerly known as the “fight or flight “ response, this survival reflex from the body is essential when in immediate danger (like escaping a hungry lion) not for day to day activities.

Same is true for an intense exercise without adequate recovery. Stress increases and the body tries its best to regulate itself back to balance. Without adequate implementation and management of stress (both during and after training), your body cannot recover efficiently and adapts negatively to the training.

As each stressful situation stacks onto one another, so does your total accumulated stress. This cycle continues from moment to moment and from one day to the next.

You see, everything we do provides some level of stress, some greater or lesser than others.

If not taken to account we hit a breaking point, eventually. Breaking points can come in different forms such as emotional outbursts, physical injuries, chronic pain, and even illness.

Under chronic stress, our bodies adapt to being guarded, constricted, and fatigued as a normal state. Over long periods of time, this stress adaptation leads to health issues in almost every system of the body.

Especially the cardiovascular system.

The World Health Organization lists Ischemic Heart disease as the number one cause of death.

Ischemic heart disease is the narrowing of the arteries that restrict the blood and oxygen back to the heart. A common symptom of chronic stress and other health factors

Stress is not the enemy, but a regular part of daily lives. The problem lies when we don't know how to self regulate and positively adapt to it.

The other side to stress is called eustress.

Eustress leads to feelings of motivation, excitement, and well being. This happens when life is balanced with just the right amount of challenge (stress) and recovery. This is where growth, development, and health happens.

You see , stress is necessary (and natural part of life), just not in excess.

Best way I try to explain this is through an empty glass cup.

Picture an empty glass with a black line drawn at the middle separating into two halves, top and bottom. This line resembles our body's threshold before health begins to decline.

Glass starts empty and each stressor we encounter fills the glass a little bit more throughout the day.

If the glass is not balanced with activities that counteract (compensate) distress, eventually, it surpasses the black line ( threshold). At this point, you start to feel signs and symptoms of unregulated distress such as pain, loss of function, digestion issues, mental/emotional distress, disease etc.

Once we understand how our day to day encounters (even in our training) fill our glass, only then can we start to create change towards optimal health and performance.

Our body learns to adapt to stress. It’s up to us how that adaptation occurs.

We need to learn how to empty the cup and build up our threshold. This happens by rapidly recovering from and building resilience to distress while providing more opportunities for eustress.

Building resilience to distress with opportunities of eustress :

  • Connect to the breath : Fastest and most accessible way to control our flight or fight response is through our breath. Manage stress better by focusing on smooth inhale and exhale to lower stress response , calm the mind, and be more present.

  • Decompress the body : Use mobility training to decompress joints , open the streams of lymph and blood, and release accumulated tension in the body. In order to maximize performance and health we need to be free to move and express all degrees of movement effectively pain-free.

  • Practice intuitive and mindful training : Use your training to build connection between breathing and movement, stability and strength, adaptable stress and rapid recovery for the development and refinement of skill. In other words, respectfully build up your resilience to stress via mind-body connection.

  • Recover well and recover consistently : Build a foundation around wholesome nutrition, quality sleep, and stress management. Give the body the proper resources and time to be able to repair and regenerate effectively.

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