Are you stressed? Most of us are to some degree. I always ask people in our initial consultation to give me on a scale of 1 to 10 how stressed they are on average every day. 1 being kick back city and 10 being about to bite down hard on both barrels. I get a lot of 8’s in this part of town. People are jacked up to the hilt man!
People often don’t believe they are stressed as they have normalised being stressed out. Every one else is right? Do you want o be like everyone else though?
Do this simple thing for me.
It is well known that cortisol increases resting heart rate. So I want you to take your resting heart rate every day for 5 days upon waking and then work out the average heart rate for those 5 days.
To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse upon waking. Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. Count the beats for 15 seconds and then times by 4.
What did you get?
The guidelines for a healthy resting heart rate are between 60 and 100bpm. It will be individual though based on your fitness. The more of a weapon you are aerobically the lower it might be. Generally though the higher above 60 you are, the more chance you are going to be experiencing cortisol issues and you need to do something about it straight away.
But you need to find YOUR average. Which is a problem because if you test your resting heart rate now and you’re stressed as hell, your average will be high. And you will only know if it is high if you test it when you have days off or are on holidays. This is your real normal. Not your stress induced normal.
What we do know is a reading above 5% of YOUR normal (62,63,64,65,66 whatever it is) means you’re possibly experiencing high cortisol or over training and your training volume and lifestyle needs to be adjusted. It is also correlated to poor thyroid.
A 10% increase or decrease on normal means you need a day off!
(Some very fit people can get down to as low as 40 but notice i said very fit. If yours is 40 and you’re not very fit something is wrong too. Its often a sign of adrenal fatigue, poor thyroid and low T3)
But I’m really only interested in the the higher readings as its the stress out folks i deal with mainly. The higher it is the more stressed you possibly are and the need for further testing for confirmation is needed.
“A 2013 study in the journal Heart tracked the cardiovascular health of about 3,000 men for 16 years and found that a high RHR was linked with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure, body weight, and levels of circulating blood fats. The researchers also discovered that the higher a person’s RHR, the greater the risk of premature death. Specifically, an RHR between 81 and 90 doubled the chance of death, while an RHR higher than 90 tripled it”(1)
(The best cortisol test would be a urine or salivary cortisol test done at 4 different times in the day. Its hard to get here in oz so you can order on line or you can get a morning cortisol from your GP. Let me know if you want more info on this )
How Does This Happen?
All stressors whether physical, emotional or spiritual effect the brain. The brain then tells the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline causes your immediate “alarm” response—increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing and diversion of your blood circulation from the digestive tract to the limbs — so you can be prepared to fight or flee. Essentially your brain knows you’re going to need blood pumped to the working muscles for you to either run away or punch on.
When Should You Be Your Most Chilled?
Um, when you wake from a uninterrupted slumber perhaps? If you’re not relaxed the moment you wake up you;re only getting more wound up from there. Which pretty much lets me know you’re running on your fight or flight system all day.
that’s why one of the easiest ways to get an idea as to whether you are too stressed is resting morning pulse.
Quick tip – Waking up to an obnoxious alarm sound is stressful isn’t it? Change your alarm to something welcoming and warm so you wake up peacefully. Nothing worse than being jolted awake by a loud annoying noise right? We are designed to wake up gently and peacefully in response to the morning light. Like a sunrise. How do you wake up? With a jolt? To a siren sound on your phone? Are you happy the moment you wake up? Do you feel rested?
Are you happy to be awake?
So many people are not. They just want to go back to sleep and have a day off. That’s not a good mental pattern to start EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE! Do you think that’s going to have a cumulative affect?
What It Means
Short term exposure to stress is fine if you have adequate rest and repair. The problem is most of us don’t have adequate rest and repair do we? So we get to inherit all the problems associated with long term exposure to stress
Here comes the list of problems associated with long term exposure to high cortisol
• Increased insulin secretion ( increased risk of diabetes)
• Increased fat deposition
• Alteration in immune function (thyroid disorders)
• Muscle wasting
• Hypothyroidism (adrenal exhaustion)
• Memory loss (makes you stupid)
• Alteration in sex hormones (makes you lose interest in sex)
• Bone loss/mineral loss (makes you brittle)
• Sodium and water retention (makes you totally bloaty bloaty)
• Elevated blood cholesterol to produce all that cortisol
• Loss of REM sleep (makes you grumpy)
• Increase plaque formation (increased chance of heart attack)
• Receptor Site activation on instability Tumor cells (enough said really)
What A Normal Cortisol Curve Looks Like
What Should You Do About It
You need to lower your exposure to your stressors! It’s that simple. Control the controllable I always say.
Things that can lead to constant exposure of low levels of cortisol could be :
Inflammatory or poor diet in general.
Lack of sleep every night
Bullying in any form
Exposure to toxins
Shitty thought patterns
An incomplete past
Get Your Act Together
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know am I? I know you just want to have a glass of wine or smoke a joint when you;re stressed. But these things only contribute to having more stress. Taking control of your life is the key to long term happiness and health. Eat better. Sleep more. Work less. Find time to do the things you love. Stop comparing yourself to others. Meditate. See friends. Have more sex. You know all this.
It is very hard to do though ins’t it as you have to be honest with yourself and admit you are where you are because of you. When we finally get complete with this we realise the power is in our hands to change our live’s and our stressors and we are not at the mercy of someone else.
If you need help with any of this please feel free to get in contact with me and we can can work out a plan to help you get your life back on track. It is all part of the personal training journey at Strong & Lean as something as simple as elevated cortisol, will blunt your ability to get fit.
Your heart rate doesn’t lie.
Personal Trainer Bondi Junction
(1) – https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/resting-heart-rate-can-reflect-current-future-health-201606179806