Categories: Health

Stress relief by exercising harder isn’t working? It’s time to unwind – but how?

December 11, 2017

Polar Ambassador and Nutritionist, Trainer & Founder of Balance Fitness and Nutrition Brooke Turner shares her top tips for stress relief and unwinding. 

“If I just get this one more thing done, I’ll be less stressed,” we think to ourselves. We all seem to spend so much time ‘switched on’, in that fight or flight response, trying to manage tons of to-dos and hoping for more hours in the day.

But more often than not, the key to stress relief isn’t doing more and checking all the to-dos on your list, but learning to slow down and unwind to regain your energy and motivation.

Elevated levels of stress in our body, whether it be from financial, work, relationships or exercise, can increase the cortisol or stress hormones in the body. These can be detrimental to both our physical and mental health. Yet, we often underrate or overlook the importance of ‘unwinding’ and prioritizing ourselves.

Finding time to unwind can help press the reset button, decrease your levels of stress, re-energize, inspire and motivate you. Exercising is usually an efficient way to reduce stress, but if your mind and body are already in overdrive, pushing yourself to the limit with the taste of blood in your mouth won’t do the trick.

That doesn’t mean you should stop exercising completely, but simply adjust the effort according to your overall stress levels.

The key to stress relief is balance

Our overall health, quality of sleep and happiness are heavily influenced by how we move and fuel bodies. I refer to my ‘Balance Cycle’ that consists of the strong relationship between movement, mood, nutrition and sleep. The cycle can go two ways:

  1. Downward spiral

When you’re tired, you struggle with feelings of lethargy and a decreased mental state. Due to being tired, you don’t have the energy to exercise and you’re more inclined to make bad food choices: think afternoon slump and reaching for the sugar or riding the caffeine train.

Poor food choices and lack of physical activity then affect your quality of sleep and the cycle continues.

  1. Upward spiral

Being physically active improves both the quality of your sleep and mental wellbeing. It has been shown that those that are physically active are more likely to make food choices that support their training, health or weight loss goals.

Sound nutrition positively impacts both our mood and supports improved quality of sleep and you wake up the next day for the positive cycle to continue.

how to find that balance to relieve stress?

No matter how hard you look, you won’t find that balance anywhere – but you can create it.

On a regular basis, take out a piece of paper and assess where you would rate each of these four elements on a scale of 1–10, where

  • 10 = amazing, you would not change a thing
  • 1 = the lowest rating, you need some serious help

Generally one or two elements will rate lower than the others. The lowest rating elements are the ones that you need to readjust to help you feel more balanced. To find the elements you need to focus on, it’s necessary to take time to unwind and self-reflect, reset and assess what is lacking or dominating. Be it work taking over spending time with your family, or fatigue and low activity levels t because you’re not getting enough good quality sleep.

Whenever you feel that something is lacking or dominating, experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety or fatigue starts creeping in – it’s time to unwind! Find time to unwind at least once every week for optimal health, if you can do it every day even better!

RELIEVE STRESS BY finding the best way for you to unwind

I love to unwind by moving and being outdoors. If the two are combined that’s a bonus! What’s most important is that you unwind in a way that you enjoy.

Here are some of my top tips for stress relief:

  • Get outside and back to nature: Mother Nature and fresh air are immediate energy lifters. Whether you live on the coast or near a park, try to get outside as much as you can. Studies have shown that those that spend time in green areas or outdoors have decreased levels of stress are happier and healthier than those that spend more time indoors.
  • Connection: make it a family affair or unwind with a friend that is always positive and supportive of you. Connecting with others is a great way to reset and reconnect.
  • Fuel your body with whole nutritious foods: eating well promotes improved sleep and energy levels, supports healthy hormones, enhances mood and mental state and is beneficial for your overall health & wellbeing.
  • Get moving: and do so in a way that you enjoy.
  • Practice positive thinking: what we think we become and we manifest the things that we want by believing in their existence. Try using ‘I am’, ‘I can’, ‘I will’. Look for the positive in every less favourable situation and learn to love yourself.

It’s up to you how you choose to do it, but make sure you take the time to unwind and prioritize ‘you time’ on a regular basis!

In the spotlight

Brooke Turner

Brooke Turner

Brooke Turner is the founder of Balance Fitness and Nutrition; a qualified nutritionist, exercise scientist, personal trainer, presenter, freelance writer and mum. She is an ocean goer, sun seeker and adventure enthusiast with a love for all things active and outdoors. Brooke believes in striving for balance by finding fun, nourishing and sustainable ways to eat and move to optimise both long term mental and physical health.