Being stress-free is nearly impossible nowadays, especially if you’re an athlete.
Training and playing games week after week can take its toll. Causing a drop in your performance, and in some cases, health issues.
Luckily, there are helpful tactics you can use to deal with stress quickly and efficiently. Before we get into those, you’ll want to know what happens to your body when you’re stressed.
What Stress Does to You
Stress is hard to notice when you’re experiencing it every day, all the time. It slowly creeps up on you. When you’re stressed, your body produces a cocktail of chemicals also known as catecholamines.
The three main catecholamines are called dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These chemicals are responsible for making you more alert, wakeful, and ready to deal with the situation.
Another chemical that your body releases during stress is cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that causes the most problems linked to stress, such as mental health issues and a drop in performance.
While quick and short spurts of cortisol aren’t a problem (you need them in fact), a constant influx of the stress hormone is all but.
Health Side Effects of Stress
So, what happens when you’re constantly stressed? For one, your physical and mental capabilities both reduce, preventing you from performing at your peak.
However, chronic stress also triggers more subtle changes in your body that you may not notice right away. These include:
- Oxidative stress – Stress increases oxidation in the body. Just like an apple oxidizes when you cut it and leave it on the table, your body goes through a similar process as it gets older.
Here’s the thing though; we have a natural antioxidant system that prevents our body from ‘rusting out,’ but over time, aging slowly chips away at our defenses, and stress makes it worse.
- Loss of testosterone – Yes, stress can also rob you of the all-important male hormone. As it turns out, cortisol is one of testosterone’s arch-enemies. High levels of cortisol lead to low levels of test – and vice versa. The impact this leaves on your performance is nothing to sneeze at.
As your T levels drop, you’ll notice a shift in your motivation, mood, focus, and energy levels. All of which are critical for playing at a high level.
There are many more issues with stress, from cardiovascular problems to mood disorders, but I’m sure you get the idea. The question is, how to reduce stress from sports and minimize its negative impact on your body?
How to Relieve Stress From Sports
Training smarter is all about listening to your body. Sometimes pushing yourself more isn’t the answer. It can only lead to burnout.
The goal is to let your body and mind have a break from the game. This is where you’re actually improving and growing. You’ll notice that when you allow yourself to recharge, even though it might not seem like you need it, your performance will be much better when you get back. You’ll return to the game with a clean slate and brimming with energy.
Here are two practical steps:
- Take a longer vacation before or after the season.
- Include strategic ‘recharge’ moments during your training sessions. For every 40 or so minutes of training, take a 5 minutes break if possible. Going ‘ham’ for several hours will only burn you out.
Stick to a Schedule
Don’t stretch yourself too thin by taking on more obligations than you can handle. You know what you’re good at; stick to it and make sure to prioritize only your most important things. The rest can wait when you have more time and when you’re not under pressure. To ensure you’re sticking to a schedule, use a calendar or a planner and follow it to the T.
Sleep is one of the best legal performance enhancers that we know of. A lack of sleep impairs virtually all of your bodily functions. For example, did you know that just one week of sleep restriction can reduce your testosterone levels by 15%?
And what about your focus, motivation, and mood? All of these things take a pretty big hit when you’re underslept. Cristiano Ronaldo himself said: “Sleep helps my muscles to recover, which is really important.” Deemed as one of the greatest football players in the world, Cristiano makes sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night to perform at his best. And you should too.
As a sports enthusiast, you’re aware of the importance of diet for peak performance. But a little reminder never hurts.
Getting enough lean protein is critical for maintaining your muscle mass and keeping you in an anabolic state. Likewise, carbs and fats help deliver energy to your muscles for sustained performance in your games.
Prioritize complex carbs over simple ones, for example, brown rice over bread. Complex carbs have a lower glycemic index, which means they don’t spike your blood sugar as much, and don’t lead to energy crashes afterward.
As for fats, make sure to get them from whole foods like avocados, nuts, and grass-fed animal products. Avoid trans fats at all costs – they have no benefits for the body and are, in fact, harmful.
Now, if you aren’t into meditation and those sorts of things, that’s fine. The good news is, you don’t need to sit in a lotus position on top of the Himalayas to practice mindfulness.
All it takes is 5 minutes out of your day, let’s say in the morning, where you sit down in a comfortable position and simply observe your breath.
You’d be amazed at the benefits this can bring you. From improved focus, mood to the improved ability to deal with stress. Science has shown that mindfulness can have a massive impact on your sports performance.
In fact, the amygdala, which is your brain’s fear center that responds to stress, shrinks when you meditate consistently. On the flip side, meditation increases grey matter in your prefrontal cortex, which improves your resilience to stress and the ability to solve problems.
One of the simplest ways you can reduce stress from sports, or any other life’s situation, is by taking a good quality nootropic.
What is a nootropic, you ask?
It’s a natural vitamin, mineral, or herb that has a positive effect on your brain. Nootropics can also be taken in combination; together, they work to help you deal better with stress, and they make life seem a little easier.
Nootropics can sharpen your cognitive abilities, improve your reaction time in sports, greatly enhance your focus, and supercharge your overall mental performance.
Some of the best nootropics for stress include L-tyrosine, Bacopa Monnieri, vinpocetine, L-theanine, and vitamin B6.
Spend More Time With Friends and Family
It’s easy to forget about the work-life balance and lose touch with those that matter. If you play sports for a living, then you know how difficult it can be to have free time. Friends and family often take a backseat because of this.
However, it’s important to find time for those that matter to us. Friends, be it those from your sporting circles or outside of the industry, can be the people you can vent your frustrations to. They can even bring you their own perspectives of dealing with stress.
Don’t Neglect Your Hobbies
Doing things that aren’t related to sports can seem like a waste of time. Still, having hobbies that interest you will keep your mind fresh. And give you a break from the everyday grind.
If you’re not sure which hobby to try, here are some ideas:
- Car racing
- Skiing or snowboarding
- Playing Music
- Homebrewing (for others, of course!)
Conclusion on How to Relieve Stress From Sports
Tackling stress is no easy task, especially when you’re an athlete. Constant training and high requirements to perform can leave you stressed out. Luckily, there are many tested ways of dealing with stress. Trying some of the methods we explained above will help you deal with stressors better, and improve your performances in games along the process.