Stress and fatigue

Stress Negatively Impacts your Mental & Physical Capacities

Staying hydrated at all times, and not drinking alcohol to function well

Behaviors and reactions under fatigue are similar to substance abuse…

While heavily fatigued, a person may act identically to being very intoxicated. Additionally, alcohol consumption increases dramatically the level of fatigue and resilience to stress

Test to recognize fatigue

This Word-Color Test was crafted to evaluate fatigue levels when working overtime. As fatigue increases, the person will read the color that is named, rather than identify the actual color of the text.

We are glad to present you with an excerpt of Chapter 9. “Stress We All Live With It”, from DR. Gérard Meyer original manuscript of the Book “PEAK PERFORMANCE BODY & MIND”, that he co-authored with Dr. Scott Donkin.

Justin, you might want to make a clicking link to the excerpt of the book as it is on old website…  

In addition to

Click here to purchase Dr Meyer book “PEAK PERFORMANCE BODY & MIND”

The Definition of Stress –

The word stress is an indication of pressure or tension. Originally, it was a technical term used for large structures and was described as a physical constraint that a mechanical piece, like a cable or an arch for a bridge, can endure. Today, although that engineering application still exists, the term stress is used more to describe a facet of our contemporary lifestyle. There are two reasons for that:

      1) The complexity of our existence. Our present lifestyle is more complex than in previous times. Today, we process more information (bank and other access codes, social security numbers, telephone and fax numbers, as well as internet address numbers), and the environment itself is more complex. For instance, it is stressful and challenging to navigate through and around a big metropolitan city in rush hour, with all the cloverleaves, access ramps, indication panels in the vehicle itself, not to mention and the intense traffic. It has been found that the less control you have over the environment, the more anxious and stressed you feel — until, that is, you realize you must work with your environment rather than control it.

      2) The frequent and rapid number of changes. Our lives are marked with many frequent changes happening faster than ever — job changes, changes in residency, personnel changes, and changes in friends and family. And studies have shown that stress levels are directly related to the quantity and rapidity of all these changes affecting us.

      Today, stress and adapting to our environment are linked, and adapting to changes is an integral part of our definition of stress.


Stress in Our Daily Lives 

Stress invades virtually every aspect of our lives. We all live with stress. In fact, our cave-dwelling ancestors couldn’t have survived without it. The problem is, in this technological age, we have to figure out how to control daily stress and make it work for us - not against us.

      Here’s how the stress response works: You’re stuck in traffic, on a day your boss demanded a report ahead of schedule, and your teenage daughter just got her driver’s license. Your body responds to the stressors: Your heart rate increases, transferring the flow of blood away from your digestive system to your arms, legs and brain. You begin to breathe faster and perspire. Your body is preparing, naturally, for “fight or flight.” You are gearing up for physical activity.

      But, no, you’re stuck in traffic, sitting in a car. You can’t get to your office where your unfinished report looms, and you’re wondering where your daughter is. If the prepared-for “fight or flight” activity, is not realized or physically vented, then your body will increase metabolism in the muscles to vent that physical expression. If your muscles don’t move through their range of motions and accomplish movement, the muscles will hold their tense position. In a sense, you’re all stressed up with nowhere to go.


The Physiology of Stressing

During a period of stress, your tense muscles contract, or increase, their tension, and they pull on the bones they are anchored to - pulling them together. The same phenomenon happens during prolonged out-of-balance postures.

      Try this right now: Hold this book out at arm’s length. How long does it take until you feel discomfort? Feel tense? Imagine another awkward position for yourself, such as slumping, and think what it is doing to the muscles in your back. Imagine what other awkward positions, besides slumping, can do.

      Over time this tension can actually result in permanently affixing an undesirable, out-of-balance position into your form. This is how poor posture is created. And, of course, there is a corresponding decrease in the ability of your body to move freely, even into more advantageous positions of balance.

      Stress consumes a lot of energy. Your body works hard for absolutely nothing. Even worse, it works against itself. When your body expels energy in stationary tension, an increase in respiration may not be sufficient to fill the requirements of your increased metabolism so you become tired. You know the feeling: You’re tired from a long day at work, and you’ve done absolutely no exercise, but you have been tense all day. This tension has created your fatigue.

      Another good example is driving or riding in a vehicle for a long period of time. You’re tense. You haven’t vented your energy and you’ve become tired as a result.

      Even more damaging effects come about through mental stress and your inability to release it. Your muscles become tense from stress, your flow of blood is lowered, your muscle’s metabolism increases, along with your muscles’ requirements for more oxygen and food. Because there is less blood and lymphatic flow through this area, there is a buildup of waste products which acts as an irritant to the muscles and decreases their ability to keep functioning at optimum healthy states. If the muscle tension occurs in the upper and mid-back, and in the muscles between the ribs, restricted breathing can result, additionally reducing the intake of oxygen.

      [Ed. From Meyer] Even if life is rosy for you, you could still be suffering from stress. Poor sitting postures combined with inactive muscles cause decreased circulation and decreased exchange of oxygen and nutrients in those muscles which can cause irreparable damage. You can prevent the damage. Again, the key to eliminating this type of stress is through movement and breathing. Through flow. [Ed. End of Meyer]

      Everyone encounters daily stress. When dealt with and vented appropriately with the lungs fuller with more fresh oxygen inhaled ( from the noose) and less contaminated co2 exhaled( by the mouth), stress is actually a positive conditioning element the mind and the body. When not vented properly, or left to accentuate imbalance, stress becomes a negative influence.


Accumulating Stress

Let’s look at saving money. You save money by investing in an interest-bearing account. Through the magic of compounding interest, your money grows in value over time and can provide a solid foundation for you and your family. Just like money in the bank, smart health habits can also help you build a solid, lasting foundation in your body.

      If, on the other hand, you don’t save any money, you may fail financially. Debt builds up, compounds negatively, and you find yourself trapped and unable to change the course of your finances. Similarly, your body can accumulate a debt of ill health, with poor habits contributing to the failure of your body’s “account.”

      We all experience periods of stress, but if we do not take the time to counter those effects, tension and strain will accumulate and alter posture and form. And the resulting decreased flow can eventually become ingrained into our systems, negatively affecting our health and well-being.


Stress and Performance

In 1906, two American researchers, Yerkes and Dodson, first pointed what is well-known today: the relationship between the degree of activation and the success in performing a task at hand (at that time, the word stress was not yet in usage). They demonstrated a Double Inverted Curve of Stress Versus Performance.[Ed. Simple explanation? Or illustration?] See illusttration

      As it is with a car, where you should avoid underruning or overruning the engine, the optimal performances for people lie in the middle range of stimulation. With motor vehicles, the middle performance zone is engineered into the vehicle, but the human body has more options. We are capable of increasing or decreasing the optimal zone of performance by either increasing our mental, physical capacity, or decreasing it by doing nothing. This concept becomes very important in deciding how we can consciously shape our own destiny.


Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Generally, there is confusion regarding stress, anxiety and depression. Stress is not a sickness, whereas anxiety or depression can be.

      Here is an easy way to look at the differences:

      Stress occurs when the signs that are complained about appear only in the presence of stressors. If the work is stressing, people will feel better during weekends and holidays when they are distanced from the stressors.

      Anxiety occurs when the symptoms persist even away from the stressors. If the work is stressing, but the person is still concerned with the job during weekends or vacations, that person has internalized the stress and can produce it at a distance from the stressor.

      Sometimes, what a person calls stress is in fact depression. The person becomes incapable of taking any action; everything seems difficult and insurmountable; feelings of acute tension, frustration, sadness, or discouragement are present. Stressed or anxious people are still involved in action and are capable of making the effort to adapt, but the depressed person gives up all efforts to fight and considers any attempt to regain some control over the environment unnecessary or impossible to achieve.

      Although not usually the case, it is possible that these three phases can each occur in the same person, escalating from stress to anxiety to depression if that person is repeatedly exposed to too many important stressors.

Selye General Syndrome of Adaptation

This rule is as follows: After exposure to an acute stressor, the human organism first receives the blow, then mobilizes resources (alarm phase), then enters a phase of resistance where all the mobilized physiological reactions are turned against the aggression. Afterwards, there is a power drain when all the energy reserves get exhausted.

Economic Distress

A 1993 study under the auspices of the Bureau International of Travail (B.I.T) in Geneva, Switzerland, found that stress was one of the most important problems facing today’s society. Stress, the report stated, can endanger physical and mental health, and can, furthermore, cost both companies and national economies a great deal in lost time and income.

      In the United States alone, the cost of stress to industry is estimated at over 200 billion dollars a year in absenteeism, loss of productivity, health insurance and outright medical costs. In Great Britain, the tab for stress approaches ten per cent of the Gross National Product.


Stress Management

      Countering Stress in the Body

You’ve heard this before, but it is so important it is worth repeating. The best way to counter the stress that shows up in our muscles is through stretching, deep breathing, relaxing, and good body movements and balances. Time and repetition spent in counteracting the negative effects of stress have a cumulative beneficial effect. Repetition can steel the body against the stress reaction, and repetition of counter activities can actually change the course of your health and well-being for the better.

      It’s your choice. You can allow stress to magnify poor postures, compress good postures, and accentuate the negative aspects of time, or with the appropriate countermeasures, you can magnify the effects of improved flow of air and fluids, and improve your form.

      Don’t underestimate the power of a smile in stressful situations. Physiologically, it reduces some of the negative aspects of stress and gives you the opportunity to actually choose to have a positive outlook.


    Preparing to Manage Stress [Ed. From Meyer]

We all do some kind of stress management without even realizing it. Walking a few minutes to relax after a day’s work, or sharing confidences with a friend are both good examples of this, but we need to consciously do more to help ourselves and others.

      By being better prepared for what to expect, people can learn to improve how they cope with stress. Stress managers and consultants have developed many excellent programs and we will detail an important one here.

      Reacting to stress is as essential for survival as breathing or eating are. But, overreacting to stress or experiencing excessive stress will trigger negative consequences so it is important to manage stress efficiently.


Focusing on Health

In managing stress, good nutrition is essential for optimum health because overeating and other improper eating habits can trigger health problems and shorten life expectancy. It is better to keep our reactions to stress, as well as our eating patterns, within healthy limits for our body.


Focusing on Efficiency

There is an optimal individual threshold for a person to remain motivated and capable of peak performance. And there are a wide variety of stress management programs that focus on sports or specific occupations. Here are three ways that you can manage stress:

1) Action Centered on the Stressor

Find a way to either keep from being exposed to the stressor, or at least reduce your exposure if you cannot altogether eliminate the cause of the stress.

2) Action Centered on the Reaction to the Stress

With this strategy, you manage your stress by countering or neutralizing your own reaction to the stressor.

3) Increasing Stress Resistance

In this third approach, you neither act upon the stressor nor upon your reaction to the stress. Your goal here is to increase your resilience to stress, and this process will consequently improve your health. Because you will be able to increase significantly your threshold level of resistance prior to feel stressed and to have to take care of dealing with it one way or another.

      Perhaps you realize that the stressor is only adding to your already being tense because you’re overloaded at work, or you have personal or family matters worrying you.  If this state of affairs is not to your liking, it it can be ameliorated if you choose to get your act together, get organized, take a walk, play a sport, or get in better shape overall, always remembering to keep some time available for your family and friends.


Different Approaches to Managing Stress

In order to implement these three different stress management strategies, you can use one or several approaches, individually or together. Specifically, you can try: the various methods of relaxation; the behavioral approach where you perform the activity and draw conclusions from that; the cognitive approach which is the opposite - you learn about something first and then apply what you learned to what you do; or you can use stress moderators.

      A stress management program can be composed of different ingredients. There is no one perfect stress management program, there are many different ones that vary according to the person and the stress symptoms, just as a diet is always best when tailored to the individual. Whichever method is chosen, it is imperative that the program adheres only to a scientifically validated approach.


Relaxation is the Opposite of Stress

Relaxation response can be described as the opposite of a stress reaction. People using the relaxation plan were tested and it was found that their reactions were exactly opposite to those normally experienced during times of stress. These reactions include:

  • Reduced cardiac and respiratory responses;
  • Lowered muscular tension;
  • Warmer extremities;
  • Lower blood pressure;
  • Lower circulating catecolamine (adrenaline) levels;
  • Reduced activity of the limbic system (the part of the brain involved in emotions and preservation of the body).

      All the above phenomenon are also observed in sleep, but during relaxation the person stays awake and can voluntarily interrupt the process at any time.

      The relaxation reaction differs from the stress reaction in two major ways: 1) Relaxation is voluntary and the person must decide to do it, as the reaction to stress is spontaneous and involuntary; and 2) Relaxation must be learned in order to override our reactions to stress which are ingrained.

      In stress management, relaxation appears to be the most direct path to controlling the stress reaction because it can counteract any adverse physiological reactions to excessive stress.


Progressive Relaxation Technique

One very effective method for countering stress is through the Progressive Relaxation Technique. Progressive relaxation consists of alternately tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles, thus forcing you to focus on how it feels to relax. Here are the simple steps:

  1. Sit on a comfortable chair, or lie on the floor with your feet against the wall, and close your eyes.
  2. Make a tight fist with your hand, hold it for about five seconds and experience the tension.
  3. Unclench and let the tension flow out, noting how it feels different to relax.
  4. Do the same with your left hand and the muscles in your upper arms and shoulders.
  5. Tense your neck, hold and relax, noting the feel of the relaxed tension.
  6. Frown as hard as you can, and relax.
  7. Smile as hard as you can, and relax (remember how it feels and be sure to use these muscles more than your frowning muscles).
  8. Raise your toes (or push against the wall), feeling the leg tension, and relax. Again notice how the tension drains away.
  9. Take a deep breath, feeling the tension in your chest. Exhale and relax. Breathe in again and hold, then exhale and concentrate on how calm you are.
  10. Daydream a peaceful, pleasant setting and enjoy it for a while.
  11. Now count slowly to four and open your eyes. You’ll be fully alert and relaxed.

            Practicing this relaxation technique daily may initially take about twenty minutes, but the time will shorten as you become accustomed to it. If you do this exercise on a daily basis, you will benefit, not only in your work, but also in your general health and well-being.


Mind Stress and Body Stress

Trying to define the relationship between the mind and the body is a little like trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg. And the same goes for trying to figure out what causes stress in the first place. At least, with stress, we can start with where it first manifests itself, in the mind or in the body, and proceed from there with the knowledge that a mental stress can reduce physical performance just as a physical stress can lower mental energy.

      Recognizing the fact that we owe it to those who give us our paychecks to come to work fit and ready for a good day’s work, we have to consider how everything we do in our personal downtime, including eating, drinking, and sleeping, will affect our performance on the job. Reciprocally, the quality of our day at work will affect our ability to enjoy, relax and rejuvenate before returning to work the next day, and the next, and the next.

      We are dealing here with two important variables: the capability to perform acceptable normal levels  of performance with the correlated normal capacity to be able to rejuvenate of reasonable efforts within an acceptable time ( see Comfort Zone and Best Theory page 1..). But in normal life, nothing is normal any more, and we have to face that and adapt to a daily burden of growing stress.


Add recuperating Capacity memo for skid pad example with D Miller

      Many factors have an effect on the brain: alcohol, drugs, hunger, medication, lack of sleep, poor diet, and thirst, to name some, and all relate to how well your body functions, as do stress, fatigue, and improper posture. These are signs and symptoms you should learn to recognize so you can help your mind and body help you. 

      When your mind and body are healthy and have been well nourished, any job you take on will be easier to complete successfully. How can you keep your mind and body healthy? Simply by eating right, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, and trying to avoid stressful situations, or at least minimizing them through any of the methods we have discussed here.

As your mind learns how to recognize the language of your body and tend to its needs, you will find the course of your life and your health improving immensely. You can’t avoid stress entirely, so it’s important to find an appropriate avenue to relieve it.


Click here to purchase Dr Meyer book “PEAK PERFORMANCE BODY & MIND”