5 Keys to Stress-Reduction

5 Keys to Stress-Reduction

Stress, you hear about it all the time, you’re told to reduce it, but what is it??

Stress is an acute response by the body when faced with a threat – be it physical, emotional, chemical, or spiritual. The body responds by activating what is called the sympathetic nervous system. This response prepares you to fight, or flee.

When the danger passes, we return to a parasympathetic state, which is where we rest, digest, heal and rejuvenate. This is the opposite arm of the autonomic nervous system, and this operates below the level of conscious awareness, meaning, you don’t have any control over it. 

When it comes to stress, it can be caused by more obvious things such as a car coming at you, or less obvious things, like your perception, or even your imagination.

Imagined stressors usually stem from early childhood where we formed beliefs, which are now deeply rooted into our nervous system, and those beliefs are now running the show. So for example if you believe deep down that you’re unworthy or unlovable, you may make terrible food choices, or work yourself to the bone in order to ‘rectify’ that wound and ‘prove yourself’ to the world around you.

Most often, this leads to chronic stress, and it can impact our lives greatly.

When in stress mode, we have issues with creativity, rationality, maintaining health, digestion, nutrient assimilation, sleep, relationships/friendships and more. If the body is in stress all the time, then our lives and bodies tend to fall apart.

So, what to do? Here are 5 tips to support a healthy nervous system.

  1.     Learn what a stressor is, and what it feels like

You need to identify what stress is, and like I mentioned earlier, it can be physical, emotional, chemical, or spiritual. If you don’t know what stress is, then you have no hope of rectifying it!

Everyone tells me they’re not stressed, but what we are usually saying is we are not overloaded with stress. The symptoms are still there.

For example, if you have a health condition, this is a stressor, if you have a high-stakes job, then this is a stressor. If you ruminate or experience a lot of negative emotion, then this too, is a stressor.

The first thing to do once you identify where your stress is coming from, is to assess whether these stressors are necessary in your life. Work out if they are coming from you, or if it is coming externally to you. Work out how to navigate it from there. Maybe you need to change your work conditions, set more boundaries, or change your lifestyle. It’s an exploration process that takes time but is 100% worthwhile.

The image below outlines what we call sympathetic dominance, which I posted on my Instagram. You can check that post out here.

Do any of those on the left-hand side resonate for you?

  1.     Intentionally teach the body how to switch back

We need to teach the body how to switch back to parasympathetic ‘mode’, meaning, we need to learn to activate the rest and digest system. Tools for this include eating healthier food, starting the day off with a wholesome breakfast, learning how to meditate, introducing breathing exercises, and finding activities that help you ‘switch off’.

  1.     Correct your circadian rhythm

This is your sleep-wake cycle. We all run on a 24-hour clock, with hormones dictating how we feel and what we do at certain times of day. In the evening, hormone fluctuations make us sleepy, in the morning these very same fluctuations wake us up.

The biggest thing that interferes with this rhythm is light – namely, blue light. Blue light blocking glasses are a great start, and if you wear them after dark, you essentially block the blue rays from signalling to your brain that it is daytime, when it is in fact, night time. Warm lighting for the home and blue-light screen protection or ‘night mode’ functions are helpful too.

  1.     Eat proper food and be intentional about it

Eating a high protein diet is highly protective as when under stress, the body requires more protein to sustain what you are doing. We also require more magnesium, salt, and zinc when we are pushing the limits, even under mild stress.

If your diet is heavily processed, then this is a stressor, both in the inflammatory nature of the food, as well as its lack of nutritional value. The body needs nutrition and if you’re chronically stressed, these nutritional stores will be drained and need to be replenished with a proper diet.

  1.     Take ownership

This one is a tricky one, as it involves you having to accept that it’s your fault you’re highly strung out, even if a lot of what has contributed to this situation was out of your control at the time. It is common to blame other people – husband, kids, job, friends, study, but at the end of the day it’s your life and you decide how that is going to look.

Oftentimes a lack of self-esteem, and lack of boundaries creates toxic relationships that are highly stressful. Learn to set boundaries. If you find yourself constantly ending up in stressful interpersonal situations, seek professional guidance – a councillor, psychologist – anyone who can point out your own behaviour and help you change it.

In conclusion

So those are my top tips, it’s obviously a super complicated subject and everyone has unique stressors and solutions that may work for them.

At this end of the day, you are the only person who can reduce stress in your life, and you need to want to do it. We are often so used to being stressed out that it is an addiction, and when it is low, we often seek it out so we can feel ‘high’ again.

Don’t get me wrong, stress is a great tool to have if you rely on it when it’s really needed, but then return to rest and digest mode after the stressful event – presentation, exam, wedding, awkward conversation with your child, etc – has passed.

If you want to learn more about stress, I’m running a mini course from Monday November 1st. Click here for more information!

Jen x

Jackie

Jackie

 

“I’ve had my ups and downs – I think I’ve learnt that you just have to keep trying, or keep going in order to achieve your goals.”

 

I joined a gym after having my second child. We were admitted to the QEII (Tresillian) for a little help with my Son’s reflux and sleeping and in the process the nurses made me realise I wasn’t doing enough for my ‘self-care’. I always loved being active, but I found many excuses not to exercise because of the time it takes, the weather, needing to shower after a long run or a swim, not having family to look after my kids, finding the time around work – one nurse suggested I join a gym as it was the most efficient way for me to exercise (and they have a crèche). The gym was the perfect solution.

In training with Jen, I felt confident in her knowledge and guidance that I had faith in the process despite not knowing what the destination would be. Consistency really proved to be key. I learnt a lot about nutrition. I found it amazing that I had spent over three and a half decades not knowing what I was eating, or how to eat for optimum performance. I learnt a range of new movements/exercises during the strength training and now I aim to keep lifting until I’m old and grey (or older and greyer).

I’m not where I’d like to be with food yet, but I do now know I have the commitment to follow a plan. I am guilty of letting bad habits sneak back in. I can see however that, this is a lifestyle choice and that once again consistency is key.

I’ve had my ups and downs – I think I’ve learnt that you just have to keep trying, or keep going in order to achieve your goal/s.

I did achieve my comp goal, but I do feel like I got a taste for it and I’d like to give it another go. COVID impacted my peak week (or lack of) and photoshoot, so when it’s time I’d like to try again. For my first comp, I was thrilled to see the results of the comp prep. This was a year and a bit post baby number two – so it was incredibly satisfying to feel so good in my own skin and to be proud of that achievement.

I do believe I benefited from seeing Jen early in my strength training journey. I don’t think I would have had the quality of training with the correct techniques if I had left it to the gym/‘franchise’ trainers. In this regard, I was invested in training effectively and efficiently and Jenifer provided the guidance and expertise to enable this.

I loved seeing myself lean and competition ready. I was amazed to see strength/definition in my shoulders I never thought I had. It was a wonderful feeling. I have always been a bit shy. I was incredibly nervous about competing, in a bikini on stage. Once I got there and I knew I had put in the work, it was an incredibly liberating experience. It’s a great way to showcase your hard work. It is a celebration of health and fitness. I also made new friends in the process which was an unexpected and valued bonus. I would like to compete again in order to have my family at the event to share the achievement with them.

I think Jenifer was most beneficial in helping me to see the importance of consistency. The consistency keeps it all on the rails. When things fall off the rails (as they do in life), Jen then taught me compassion. In my prep, if I over ate my internal monologue of the old/uneducated ways/habits would make me feel like reverting to some disordered eating habits of restricting – which would only make me hungry and lead to more binging. Jen taught me to see the bigger picture and that helped me to get back on track quickly, resulting in more consistency, less ups and downs and ultimately leading to results.

Ash

Ash

 

Training with Jen since: 2015

Goals: Strength, Strong Fit Bod, Gut Health, Stress Management

“I stopped making exercise a priority – as a result my mental health paid the price and I didn’t even realise!”

 

Jen helped to me gain a deeper understanding of myself and helped me rediscover my love of training, health and spiritual connection. Together we discovered that stress is a strong influence over my eating patterns and subsequent bloating. She has also encouraged me to meditate daily to reduce my stress and reengage with my sub conscious.

For the last 15 years, I’ve maintained a consistent gym/exercise routine During my time in the defence force.

After leaving the Army the purpose of my exercise regime was to maintain fitness levels, weight loss, health, and to a lesser extent mental health. I loved being healthy, fit, feeling lean and enjoyed a variety of fitness activities (which always included LOADS of cardio). I loved exercise, the feeling of utter exhaustion after a session was exhilarating and I loved being able to ‘eat more’ as a result. On reflection, I didn’t always have the best relationship with WHY I was exercising; sometimes I would use it as ‘punishment’ for not eating as well as I should have, or to ‘earn’ a big dinner with friends. 

After giving birth to my first child, I didn’t want to do as much cardio so I turned to weight training to achieve my fitness and weight loss goals. I joined a few gyms and worked with numerous trainers, each with their own ideas of how to get ‘comp ready’. These usually entailed an insanely restrictive diet. 

After what ended up being a gruelling experience of getting on stage, I was left feeling completely exhausted, starved and deflated. I devoured everything sugary/carb laden in my path with no ‘off switch’ in sight. I felt completely lost and sad, riding the sugar rollercoaster.

My mental health took a downward spiral and I am certain I developed some disordered eating patterns as a result of this. 

When I started training with Jen a year later, I loved that she knew exactly how I was feeling  and understood my desire to feel empowered and strong along with repairing my metabolism and mental health.

Initially, I wanted to train with Jen because I noticed her clients got amazing strength and weight loss results. I also admired how happy and healthy they all looked leading up to their comps.

I loved having the freedom to choose the foods I could consume and noticed results straight away. I felt leaner, stronger and healthier than I had ever felt before. 

Jen has helped me realise some fundamental truths about my life by, such as:

  • Connection: Everything in our bodies is interconnected.
  • Balance – between work, family, fitness and health takes time.
  • Be kind – Jen’s calm and caring demeanour is a constant reminder that it is ok to not get it right every single time. What is important is that you learn from your mistakes and try to be better/change tomorrow and to not be hard on yourself.
  • Find the love – reconnect with why you wanted to train, be healthy and nourish your body, mind and soul. I had to learn to balance my love of training, exercise and healthy eating with my new teaching career. 
  • Be Organised and Prepared – life throws so many challenges at you every single day. Planning when to train, preparing weekly meals and organising these things to suit your lifestyle will 100% help you to achieve your goals. Trying to short cut any of these only makes the process more difficult for yourself.
  • Reflect – regular meditation and written reflections/downloads will help to reduce stress, improve mental health and achieve my goals. 

Thanks forever Jen xxx

 

Suzie

Suzie

 

“Physically I weigh less, but I have so much more muscle and I LOVE the way my body looks and how it feels. I am definitely more in tune with my body’s needs…”

 

My love affair with health and fitness started at a pretty bad time in my life, as I was struggling with a recent break up and felt a little lost. Deep down I knew I needed to feel better, and BE better, so I started playing sport and joined a gym. The moment I walked in to the gym I fell in love with weights. I loved the way they made me feel and the strength I was developing. It was at that point I wanted more than the gym and sport could give me. I loved what was happening and the way my body was beginning to feel, but I felt like I could be better than I was. I got myself a personal trainer, who spoke to me about the importance of eating the right foods, especially for a women.

At this point, I was introduced to Jen. When I first met Jen, I sat roughly around 76kg and thought I had built some decent muscle. When I look back to who I was in the beginning, there have been drastic changes not only physically, but mentally as well. Physically I weigh less, but I have so much more muscle and I LOVE the way my body looks and how it feels. I am definitely more in tune with my body’s needs (and continue to understand this more and more every day).

Mentally I’m a completely different person. My priorities have flipped, I have a much higher standard across every aspect of my life, in the way I treat others, the way people treat me, and and with food. Since meeting Jen I set myself goals, and achieve them. And the standard at which my goals are set continues to increase with what I’m learning and the way my body continues to develop.

Jen has taught me too much for me to put down in to words. The main thing has been around nutrition and the importance of making sure that I’m fuelling my body right to get the absolute best outcome for me HOLISTICALLY. I understand how fuelling my body with nutrients can affect my entire body positively, not just for weight loss. Nutrients are energy and affect my moods, alertness and general wellbeing. The time she took to educate me is something I won’t be able to say thank you enough for. I understand the importance of focusing on long-term success and not letting anything get in my way.

My favourite part of the whole journey so far has been my success in my new and ever changing body. I have physical memento’s of my competition success, but the mental memento’s are what I’m most proud of. I went from being a footy playing, partying, unhealthy 20-somehting to a natural body builder who competes not only nationally (and places top3) but also competes internationally, within a few short years.

I am more driven and motivated to have a successful future than I have ever been before. I have loved seeing my body change and I’m so driven to continue to change it to be the best I possibly can be, and I know-without any doubt that I can and will achieve that with Jen.

Raquel

Raquel

 

“My mindset has completely changed for better. I`m very focused but at the same time I know when to have a step back if I have a special event or need a break. I`ve really enjoyed lifting weight and challenge myself.”

 

So I started with Jen with quite a number of goals in mind; I wanted a healthy balanced life-style, a positive connection with food without restrictions, to support my gut health, balance hormones, and find discipline and consistency. 

Body-wise, I wanted to look at myself at the mirror and like of what I`m seeing – this involved feeling good, as well as rebuilding my body – losing fat and building muscle. I follow a pescatarian diet, so wanted to learn how to do this on my current duet preference and understand how nutrition works in my body.

I`ve learned that it`s ok if I eat something that is not on my meal plan or diet one day, because I`m on holidays or an especial occasion or just because I wanted to eat that day. It won’t ruin my plan or routine. I’ve learned consistency and discipline, as well as patience and trusting in the process (this is key!). At the beginning I felt frustrated, but since I stopped comparing myself with others and understanding that each person responds differently and works differently, things are definitely flowing. 

Another thing that I`ve learned is about the workouts.  I used to literally hate strength and weight-lifting workouts. Since June 2020 when I started the program, I learned correct techniques that improved my posture, especially after breaking my collarbone. After 2 surgeries in 2019 I wasn’t able to sleep over my left shoulder and since I’m working out with so many different exercises I more confident and don’t feel pain anymore. I feel stronger and can notice changes in my body. I’m definitely happier and more confident overall. 

My mindset has completely changed for better. I`m very focused but at the same time I know when to have a step back if I have a special event or need a break. I`ve really enjoyed lifting weight and challenge myself. 

One thing that I`ve learned from you is balance. The way Jen guides us is showing she cares about “our inside”. It is important to take care of all the aspects and respect the process as an individual. Patience!

Simone

Simone

 

“It’s so important to listen to your body and to understand that making progress and reaching your fitness goals isn’t a race and can be a slow process sometimes…”

 

I first contacted Jen way back in 2014/15 when I had been prepping for a comp with a different coach. That coach dropped me after I questioned his methods because I literally almost fainted whilst at work (I was doing 12+ cardio and HIIT sessions a week plus 60-90min weight sessions 5-6 days a week and eating 1200-cals). I didn’t want to pull out of the comp but after talking to Jen about whether or not to keep going she strongly advised against it because my body and hormones were already in survival mode.

I didn’t end up doing that comp and I’m glad I didn’t because I spent the next 2-3 years fixing the damage I had done (I had major issues with my gut and hormones). Fast forward 3 years and I got in touch with her again to help me lose a few kgs prior to my wedding, mainly because the weight/physique wouldn’t change with what I was doing and she helped me get in the best shape I’d ever been in (so far😉). 

Jen helped me change my entire outlook on training and nutrition. I used to have an all or nothing approach and would beat myself up if I didn’t achieve what I’d set out to do. Jen really helped me understand that less is definitely more when it comes to training.

When I contacted her to help me improve my physique for my wedding, I was overtraining and doing way too much HIIT. I felt tired and exhausted a lot even though I had been increasing my calories (on my own). I was really worried when she said to cut out cardio and scale back training (not what you think you’d hear when you want to lose body fat) but I trusted her (since my approach clearly wasn’t getting me results) and after a few months, I saw noticeable differences not only in my physique but also in my energy levels and mood.

I can’t remember the last time I did HIIT now and only do cardio if I absolutely must.

I changed my focus from “I need to train no matter how I feel” to listening to my body and taking a break when I need it, not trying to max out during every session and I also learned that you can go a few weeks without tracking your food and eating more treats and not blow up like a balloon (in fact you probably won’t gain any weight), if you’re eating enough food and not training excessively in general. Healthy bodies just don’t do that! That is a major achievement for me because I used to shape my life around tracking food and training and now I it’s the other way round and I train and eat to feel good.

I also learned that even if you have to adjust your training to a lower intensity, you will not lose your progress. I had to adjust my training for a while after I was in a car accident and injured my C6/C7. Jen adjusted my training according to what I could and couldn’t do and even though the intensity was less, I still made progress. I’m currently pregnant and we’re following the same approach, reducing training intensity and focusing on maintenance and keeping my body strong rather than hitting PBs with the goal of slowly going back to normal training once bub is here and I get the all clear from the doc. It’s so important to listen to your body and to understand that making progress and reaching your fitness goals isn’t a race and can be a slow process sometimes.

All in all I feel heaps better. I used to think that if I’d go over my (self-allocated) calories or don’t track my food, I’d gain fat straight away and always thought that I had to hit my macros perfectly (to the gram) all the time to see results. Now I know I don’t, and I also know that I don’t actually need to track my food at all. I’m now at a point where I can eat without tracking anything and knowing that I can still reach my goals. Training is still part of my life but I do it because it makes me feel good.

I basically changed my whole mindset from being focused just on physique and how I look to also consider how I feel, if my body is functioning properly and that rest is super important! I still like being lean and having abs but I now know that you can achieve that without stuffing up your hormonal and/or gut health and that you can still have the occasional burger. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation is yours for the taking. 

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