Manage your stress levels for success

Real estate is a hectic profession, but you will be able to perform much better overall if you keep your stress levels under control. While being super organised will help, there are some extra things you can do that will help you attain peak performance. Exercise Scientist Emily Schofield explains.

Acute and chronic stress affects many people to varying degrees.

I frequently see clients who are plagued by stress, and the physical and mental issues associated with being stressed due to their work or their working environment.

Little do people realise that stress wreaks havoc on our mental health, body composition and productivity.

It makes us tired, accelerates the ageing process and can prevent us from reaching optimal productivity in our work.

The health-damaging behaviours associated with the feeling of being ‘stressed out’ all play their part.

As mammals, the ‘fight-or-flight’ response is hard-wired into us as a physiological response to stress.

Physical changes evoked by the fight-or-flight response include an elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, slowed digestion, decreased immune system and increased release of cortisol (cortisol is a stress hormone that is closely related to fat storage, especially around the midsection).

For this reason people who are chronically stressed may not be able to lose fat, even if they are doing everything right from a training and dietary point of view.

The fight-or-flight response is intended to prepare the body to respond quickly to a harmful event, attack or threat to survival.

However, everyday stressors that provoke such a response put significant stress on the body.

For individuals who experience stress as a part of their daily life, the chronic elevation of these mediators (such as a chronically increased heart rate and blood pressure) produce wear and tear on the cardiovascular system.

Over time this can result in serious health issues.

Reducing stress and balancing cortisol levels is essential if we are looking to attain peak performance, gain more energy and achieve optimal body composition – that is, more lean muscle and less body fat.

When cortisol is chronically elevated, the body thinks it needs to store fat around the midsection so that it will have an easily available source of energy in the event of more intense stress.

It may also leave you feeling tired and rundown.

However, stress can be managed effectively through various means.

  1. Follow a strength training program. Strength training stimulates the body’s anti-stress system; it also builds muscle, gives you more energy and makes you feel good.
  2. Supplement with magnesium and fish oil. I recommend all my clients supplement their diets with magnesium, which is an anti-stress mineral that helps calm the nervous system, resulting in an improved quality of sleep and helping to lower cortisol levels. Omega 3, found in fish oil, is proven to decrease inflammation within the body, and this helps fight the sensations of stress.
  3. Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol is not a sleep aid; in fact, it reduces the quality of your sleep. Less sleep = higher cortisol = more stress on the body. Alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly, but it reduces Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, causing disruption to your sleep pattern.
  4. Improve sleep quality and quantity: get an early night. Staying up late stimulates the release of stress hormones, which trigger the fight-or-flight response in the body. As mentioned above, take magnesium to regulate serotonin levels and improve your quality of sleep.
  5. Eat! All too often people who are stressed go too long without eating, sending cortisol levels even higher. Eating will reset your hormone cascade and reduce cortisol. Choose low glycaemic, protein rich foods, removing all processed foods for more effective fat loss.
  6. Have four hours of just straight plain fun. This means spending time without purpose; play with your kids in the park or go for a walk. No one on their deathbed ever wished they spent more time in the office!

Cut back on things that you don’t really need to do. If you can’t decide what they are, ask yourself: if someone dear had fallen ill and you had to take care of them, what activities would you reduce or eliminate altogether?

Sometimes the answers become pretty clear, and by taking care of yourself you will ultimately end up doing a much better job for your clients, your family and yourself.

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Emily Schofield

Emily Schofield is an Exercise Scientist, having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science. She is a Personal Trainer at Ultimate Performance in Los Angeles.