Stress majorly sucks, and nowadays it seems to be everywhere. It’s at home with the bills, at work with the deadlines and, when you’re trying to conceive, it’s in the bedroom. That’s right, the stress in your life is actually affecting your balls. So take a deep calming breath, and read on to find out what stress is doing to your swim team and get tips on how to do one of the hardest things out there: relax.
The Biology of Stress
You know that feeling you get when you’re stressed? That just-swallowed-a-brick, sweaty palmed, heart-in-mouth awfulness? Those feelings are caused by your body releasing certain key hormones as a part of the infamous “fight or flight” response. The fight or flight response is your body’s attempt to give you the best chance at survival. Your body assumes that stress, whether it’s over your looming deadline or a looming grizzly bear, is inherently threatening, so it gives you tools to help you survive: the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol is adrenaline’s less well-known counterpart. It’s a stress hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels, immune responses, metabolism, and blood pressure. And under normal circumstances, cortisol is a good thing to have. Cortisol is responsible for waking you up in the morning, regulating your blood sugar and controls your blood pressure. It does all of these thingsby breaking down muscle, protein and fat,carrying them down to the liver to be turned into glucose (the chemical that supplies you with energy). When you’re stressed for a short amount of time, cortisol increases glucose production, giving you the feeling of more energy. But while cortisol can immediately make you feel like you have more energy it can also decrease testosterone production in the long run.This is due to cortisol doing what it does best: breaking things down.
Ordinarily, cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, depending on the amount of energy your body deems necessary. So in the morning, your cortisol levels are higher so that you’ll have the energy to wake up. During exercise, cortisol kicks in to give you the energy to get swole. These normal instances don’t harm your testosterone because it is protected by the enzyme 11βHSD-1. However, if you’re highly stressed for a long period of time, your body simply does not have enough of that enzyme to protect your testosterone molecules, so they are destroyed by the cortisol. This is compounded with the fact that when your body is producing large amounts of cortisol, it is devoting its resources to cortisol production and no longer producing as much testosterone. It’s a one-two punch to your sperm production: not as much testosterone is produced, and a large amount of the testosterone that is being produced is being destroyed.
Lack of Sleep
Oh, that wonderful feeling of insomnia. There’s nothing worse than staring at the ceiling, trying to calm down your mind so that you can finally get some sleep. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep that’s caused by stress can lead to further problems with your fertility. Sleep is the way our body regenerates after a long day. When your stress causes you to miss out on sleep, it can turn into chronic fatigue and can inhibit your testosterone production.
Chances are, if you’re stressed, you probably don’t have much time to come up with healthy recipes in the kitchen. Stress can often cause you to make poor dietary choices- too much caffeine, sugar or pre-packaged food, simply because poor dietary choices are often fast dietary choices. Too much sugar can result in spikes in aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, where as too much caffeine can lead to increased cortisol production, which, as we talked about earlier, is bad for your boys. Pre-packaged food is often high in sodium and calories, leading to an increased BMI which can majorly impact your sperm production and general health.
Tips for reducing stress
Relaxing is often easier said than done. How do you keep calm when everything in life is screaming at you to stress out? We’re not going to tell you to just relax, put on some Sarah Mclachlan and pour yourself some delightful chamomile tea. We know stress is harder to deal with than that (although we won’t judge you if that’s your idea of a good time). We’ve got you covered. Here are some manly tips for chilling out and hanging loose:
Cut back on Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates cortisol production, which is a big problem for your sperm production. Try to limit your caffeine consumption. It’ll improve your sleeping habits and reduce the amount of cortisol your body releases.
Sleep it off
Sleep has a tendency to lose priority when you’re stressed. But the best way to combat the fatigue often associated with stress is by getting enough hours of high quality sleep. That means avoiding bright electronics like the tv/computer screen for about half an hour before bed, going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time everyday, and getting regular physical activity.
Speaking of regular physical activity,exercise is a great way to get blow off some steam. Take a run, shoot some hoops, or if sports aren’t your thing, just take a walk around the block. It’ll give you a feeling of control that we often lose during stress, and the endorphins aren’t half bad, either.
Get the last laugh
When you’re stressed, laughing might be the last thing you want to do, but studies have shown that laughter actually reduces cortisol levels. Might we suggest some Monty Python?
Sometimes eating poorly is a reaction to stress. Ironically, eating badly can actually make you feel worse. Fueling your body with the wrong kind of food can make you feel bloated, fatigued and irritable. Check out our Diet page to learn what foods will fuel your body and make your swimmers the best that they can be.
Stress has become a fact of life, but we hope that this list of tips will let help you stay relaxed, healthy and hanging loose.