Thursday, March 21, 2013

Article # 415. Increase stamina while working under stress

Most of us are living a stressful life, full of pressures at work, home or school in some form or the other. You are either racing to meet up work/school deadlines or to meet your family demands. It’s all taking a toll over you either physically or mentally or both.

What is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand by releasing chemicals into your blood, which gives more energy and strength. If stress gives you extra energy and strength then how can it be harmful to your body? Come let’s see….
We can divide stress into two categories: positive stress and negative stress. Physical stress upto a certain time limit is positive stress but if continued for longer time, it turns into negative stress; and same is with mental stress. For example, when you are performing under pressure for limited time, this stress gives you that extra energy and strength but if continued for longer time, it becomes negative stress. When negative stress sets in, that is when you will require increasing your stamina to fight this stress.

What can negative stress do to your body?

Stress can cause many health problems like premature aging, obesity, depression, infertility, sleep problems, digestive problems, pain of any kind, heart problems and more (see the diagram below). But remember, every individual reacts differently to stress. Some can handle large amount of stress very easily while some cannot handle even small amount of stresses very well. If the stress is frequently occurring in your life, it is time to start thinking of what you can do to reduce it. One important thing to know is that psychological pressures put stress on all the systems of your body, some people may become angry; some may get confused or depressed.
Increasing stamina is nothing else but increasing energy. Energy can be increased by healthy balanced diet and exercise, which are the cornerstones for increasing energy.

Increasing energy through healthy diet:
  • Complex carbohydrates: Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, multigrain bread, pasta, rice are better than the simple carbohydrates. Remember the importance of unity? (A single chain can be easily cut but if the chain is made up of few layers then it takes time to cut). Same principle is with digestion of simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrate foods like white bread, honey, sugar etc. can be easily broken by the digestive system and the supply of energy is immediate whereas complex carbohydrates take time to be broken down and therefore energy released in this process is slow and lasts for longer time. Therefore, it is important to increase your intake of complex carbs, as opposed to simple ones.

  • Snack on fruits, nuts, raw vegetables, cottage cheese and lean meat in between your meals. It is important to snack in between meals as that keeps your blood sugar level normal. When your blood sugar level keeps fluctuating you feel tired more often.
·         Give good iron supply to your body. If the iron content (hemoglobin) in your body is low, this will also lower your stamina, as the oxygen content of your body will be lowered. Some foods that will improve your iron are: red meat, iron enriched cereals and grains, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, jaggery, dates, wheatgrass (juice or capsule).
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and avoid alcohol.
Increasing energy through exercise:
Spend minimum 30 minutes of your day, doing an activity that you like. It can be anything like playing a sport, walking in the park, playing with your kid, taking an exercise class, running in open air or on treadmill etc. but try to be active for those 30 minutes. Yes, this might make you tired immediately after you finish it, but over the time, it will help in improving your stamina at work.
Exercise in any form can help you alleviate stress because of the release of endorphins (feel good hormones). If you exercise even 10 – 15 minutes in a day (at one time or split it into small bouts), you will notice a very good change in your health and your way of handling stress.
Make sure you get adequate sleep (7-8 hours) and rest as lack of the same can also make you feel tired and reduce your stamina.
Increasing energy through yoga:
  • Yoga is the best way to improve your stamina while working under stress.
  • It teaches stability of mind, improves concentration and thus your performance.
  • Deep breathing and pranayama are very important and helpful in improving your stamina. Just doing them for 15 – 20 minutes daily also makes a huge difference, as it increases the oxygen capacity of your body thereby, reducing your stress, improving your stamina and helps your brain to function better.
Deep Breathing:  Sit in a cross legged posture or on a chair. Keep your back and neck straight. Breathe in and as you breathe in, bulge your abdomen out. Breathe out and simultaneously pull your abdomen in. As you do this, you will automatically expand and relax your lungs completely along with your stomach and that will allow each bronchi (functional unit of lung) to be filled with air, which means more oxygen supply to your body.
Try out some of the above things and I am sure you will see a difference in your output while you are under stress. If you want to know more or have any questions, let me know and I will be happy to help you.
Guru Shankar!


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