When looking to improve your health, it’s easy to focus purely on the physical. Many people devote a lot of energy to looking for a more effective workout plan, buying new gear they hope will improve performance and tweaking their nutrition and hydration. All of these can be beneficial, but to enhance overall wellness, we also need to consider other, non-physical factors that may be having a deleterious effect.
One of the biggest ones is chronic stress. As Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg rightly point out in their brilliant book Peak Performance, we need some stress to prompt adaptation after a training session and to motivate us in other areas of our lives. And yet if we’re permanently stuck in a high-stress state, our body gets locked in fight/flight/freeze mode, which inhibits our ability to recover, rest and repair. Chronic stress can lead to systemic inflammation, which is a major contributing factor to disease, and can start to limit mental and physical output. Not to mention making us irritable, cranky and generally Grinch-like.