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#176: Understanding Stress For Better Stress Management

Understanding Stress for Better Stress Management with Neil Wagstaff

In this fast-paced world, it seems the only way to move forward is to push harder and harder. But where is this relentless rat’s race taking us? Never has there been a higher prevalence of chronic disease and mental health disorders globally. If we want to change this dynamic, we must understand that rest, recovery and effective stress management are equally important in driving results.

Neil Wagstaff joins me in this episode where he explains the science behind stress. He outlines the various stages in the stress curve to help you identify where you might be in the spectrum. We also talk about the importance of awareness. With a better understanding of stress, it’s possible to make small lifestyle changes to reduce its toll on you and take greater ownership of your health.

Don’t miss this episode if you want to develop your resilience and learn effective stress management!

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Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Understand stress better by learning about its symptoms.
  2. What is homeostasis, and what are the stages of stress?
  3. Discover the importance of awareness in stress management.

Episode Highlights

[03:15] Defining Stress

  • Stress is a normal part of life. It can be good if it’s used in the right amount.
  • Picture stress as a bucket. When the bucket is filled in too quickly, it can overflow.
  • With proper balance, stress can be managed, and you can avoid the bucket from tipping over.
  • The Goldilocks Principle shows that the amount of load or stress we put on our body should be well-balanced to get a positive result out of it.
  • Stress should be balanced with recovery to get optimal results.

[11:59] Symptoms of Stress

  • Feelings of depression, anxiety and anger start to rise in times of distress.
  • A weak immune system reflects stress in your body.
  • Stress happens when there is a lack of balance between work and recovery, when there is a lack of resilience.
  • Take the time out, time to reflect and to show gratitude so you can move forward.

[20:13] Health and Homeostasis

  • The goal is to maintain homeostasis, when the body is well-balanced and stable.
  • The alarm stage usually comes after experiencing homeostasis, especially when you’re anticipating something new or big in your life. 
  • This can bring about an arousal of emotions, which can be overthrown using stress management techniques.
  • Being always on the go can lead to chronic mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
  • The key to maintaining homeostasis is giving yourself time to recover.

[24:16] The Resistance Stage of Stress

  • After the alarm stage comes the resistance stage, where you actually put stress on your body. It is when you can feel really stuck.
  • This stage can result in a chronic state of exhaustion.
  • This puts you in the position to address the stressors by changing habits, perceptions and behaviours to bring back homeostasis.

[26:41] The Exhaustion Stage of Stress

  • This stage happens when your stress peaks and things get out of control.
  • We want to prevent reaching this stage as much as possible.
  • Stress can activate the body’s fight or flight response, which can have a negative spiral effect on the body, both physically and mentally.
  • It is crucial to bring awareness to your behaviour and decisions when in the exhaustion stage to avoid spiraling down further.

[31:41] On Awareness

  • Increasing our awareness around stress and personal wellness has made a big difference on the things we do.
  • Individuals with lower awareness tend to externalise their problems and not have control of their lives.
  • The greater your awareness, the more likely you are able to take ownership of your problems and control your mood, health and how you look at the world.
  • Awareness is also vital for teams. It allows you to help your teammates and prevent things from spiraling out of control.
  • It starts with being aware, but you don’t have to tackle your problems all at once. There is no instant fix, not even coaching.

[36:16] 7 Questions to Increase Awareness

  • What is the biggest stress you have at the moment, and how is it expressing in your body?
  • What normally causes stress for your body?
  • How is stress showing up — does it come in certain environments?
  • When is stress showing up?
  • What can be done immediately to alleviate the feeling and support your biology?
  • What can you do to manage your stress response better?
  • Finally, what are the long-term strategies you can implement to lower your residual stress?

[42:36] Stress Management: Start with the Small Things

  • Look after your stress like you look out for your body.
  • Do any mobility work (or breathing work) that is right for your biology.
  • Spend time with nature.
  • Perform habit stacking or the art of doing simple things to get complex things done every day.
  • Start doing things in practice to increase your awareness.

7 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

‘...the resilience is found in rest. But society will say to us that resilience is found in pushing harder, pushing, doing more, doing more and doing more, but it's found in rest’.
‘So this is why it’s important to remember, in daily life and business, you need the recovery aspect in there. It should be like a training program’.

‘Finding joy in something is the real key to my mental balance. I’m not being selfish when I take half an hour to paint a picture. I’m not being selfish — I’m being sensible, and I’m looking after my own health, and therefore, the health of my loved ones’.

‘Sometimes the answer isn’t actually just addressing what’s under your nose and addressing your work. It could be addressing your food, your movement, how you’re looking after your mind and all those things. And then change your perception of work totally so you can manage it a whole lot more effectively’.

‘It's really important for corporate teams or sports teams to start recognising signs and others. And if you are more aware than the other person, then you can help them more… so that you can actually prevent things from spiraling out of control’.

‘If you find yourself blaming everybody else for the situation, then you're probably not very aware of things that are going on because you're just externalising. If you're moaning a lot… Then you might want to have a look at the way that you're actually processing things and understanding things and take more ownership’.

‘You don't have to tackle the whole thing at once. But it's being more aware. Am I a person who goes through life blaming everybody else, blaming the system, blaming that? Or am I someone who does something about it, takes ownership, starts to make a change in [my] own life’?

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To pushing the limits,



Welcome to Pushing the Limits, the show that helps you reach your full potential with your host Lisa Tamati. Brought to you by lisatamati.com.

Lisa Tamati: Welcome back to Pushing the Limits this week everyone. I hope you're having a fantastic December. Can't believe we're already here, Christmas is just around the corner. 

I have an interview today with Neil Wagstaff.  He's a repeat offender on this show. And I love having my business partner and my coach, exercise, science men, Neil Wagstaff with me. And we're going to be talking resilience and stress, how to control stress, how to understand what it's doing to your body, and some of the techniques and things that you can do to cope with stress. And I really hope you get benefit from this episode. 

It's an ongoing theme. We have lots of stress in our lives generally. We live in stressful environments, we've got families and financials and sicknesses and illnesses, and all sorts of things that we have to deal with on a daily basis. So here's some really good advice and tips around managing stress and being resilient. 

Just before we head over to the show, please give the show a rating and review if you enjoy it. And make sure you share it with your friends and family. And if you're looking for stocking fellows, make sure you head over to my shop on lisatamati.com, my website. You can check out my fierce jewelry collection, there you can check out my books. 

And of course, if you are having trouble with any sort of health issues, or you've got a big goal, or you want to deal with some mindset issues, I am taking on a very, very small number. I've pretty much meet the quota. But I've got a couple more spots left. If you want to work one on one with me reach out to lisa@lisatamati.com. And I can send you information about my health optimization coaching. 

Okay, now over to the show with Neil Wagstaff. 

Lisa: Well, hi everyone, and welcome back to Pushing the Limits this week. Today I have my wingman Neil Wagstaff, with us again. My gosh, you're coming on the show a lot, now, Neil. 

Neil Wagstaff: Like you make me feel really popular, man. I love it.

Lisa: It's really good to have you here because you just got so much knowledge. And it's just fantastic being able to share all your knowledge with everyone out in podcast land. So if you're a new listener to the show, thanks for dropping by. And if you're returning listener, thanks very much for coming back again and please don't forget to give us a rating and review. We love hearing from you guys and you reaching out. 

Now today, the subject is stress and how it affects your body and health. A big topic for so many people, especially given 2020, it's been a disastrous year on many, many fronts for many, many people. Certainly been the worst one of my life. So we're going to talk about how to deal with stress, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of when you're getting overstressed, how to just to manage your physiology so that you can get the best out of your life without tipping yourself over the edge. So Niel, over to you. More to say what’s it all about. 

Neil: Firstly, it is a normal part of life, it is definitely a normal part of life. And it can be good. It's often given a very negative, negative sort of press and people see it as a negative thing. It can be that definitely, but it's also something we need in our daily life. And something we want—you and I personally we thrive off it and love having things to do, we love being busy and love getting things done. So that's good. 

For some of the good stresses that people be aware of when just understanding they're putting them into that stress category is these things will have an impact on our body and can put load on it. And therefore they're putting load on it they can cause inflammation and effectively cause stress of some sort. So exercise is a stress and it's a very good stress if it's used in the right amount. Okay? It can also be bad stress. 

Lisa: Dosage.

Neil: Yes, exactly the right dosage. Food can be a stress and it puts a load on our body. Again, use well, it's a good one. Work, again, manage well with good balance is a great stress to have and we all should enjoy doing it. Mental challenge can be a good stress. You like being pushed to our limits, you're definitely a great example of someone who loves pushing the limits, Lisa. 

Lisa: Yes, mentally and physically. 

Neil: So there are good things in that. New environments, new experiences. They're all great stresses that you can put on your body. General ones on the bad list would be things like poor sleep, and lack of exercise, social stress, prolonged challenge—the stuff that goes on for too long without rest and recovery. And then significant physical or mental trauma as well. 

Now if you manage those two buckets. We often talk about the bucket of stress and you have heard us discuss that on previous podcasts as well. But these things, if they're thrown in the bucket, and the bucket gets too full too quickly, then some things on the good list can actually be the things that actually cause the overflow and cause too much stress. But manage well, manage those lists well, and you're going to be in a position that is part of normal life, it should be good. Stress needs to be there. The key thing is that you've got balance with it. And that's what we'll go on to talk about a little bit more, a little bit more today.

Lisa: Yes, so I think things like exercise people don't often recognize as a stress and it can be added into that same bucket. And we have talked about that principle before on the show, where, that can be the stressor that tips it over, if you've already got a very full bucket. So even though you think, ‘Oh, doing my training today is a good thing’. It is, if your body's ready for it, for example. And if you've had a lack of sleep and lack of social interactions and your food was crappy, then that extra stress of exercise, or doing it too hard on that day might not be a good thing. So it's about balancing it. And it's about recognising when your body is in a state of excessive stress. 

So now we're going to talk about the Goldilocks principle. And I love the Goldilocks principle, it's pretty much a metaphor for everything in life. The more I study biology and chemistry, the more I start to understand that everything in the entire world is all about the Goldilocks principle. Not too hot, not too cold, not too much, not too little. Just getting it right. So how do we get it right, and what is the Goldilocks principle in regards to stress, Neil?

Neil: What you said, is so true, Lisa. It is so appropriate to so many aspects of life, it really is. One of the examples we often use is quite an easy way to look at it, it is looking from a training perspective, and especially from my background, that's what I understand well. 

So when someone goes through a training program, or an exercise program, goes through rigorous exercise classes, you don't want to create a training stimulus in the body. You want to create a effect on the body under load. So you're going to cause some stress, it's going to break it down, so you'll get a response. And it comes up after a period of time and it could be sort of that four or six week period. We then start to get some great results. Otherwise what’s known as super compensation, where your body compensates and responds really well. 

Now the reason it does that is because you've put the right load on it. So you put the right amount of stress from an exercise point of view, therefore, you're going to get the nice result at the other side. Now if we do put too much—or sorry—too little stimulus on the body, then the result is going to be smaller, and we won't have such a great result at the other side and four to six weeks time. If we put too much stimulus on, which we see a lot of people doing in our work, and not enough recovery, and you don't get any results at all. 

Now stress works in a similar way. And what we're looking at in this example is we want to put stress as in the exercise load on a body to get the result. But in our daily life, should be a similar process. The amount of load we put on our body each day should be enough that we get a great result at the other end. 

And we had a, Lisa and I were away doing a court presentation about a week or so ago. And we had a great discussion there with one of the one of the team we're working with. And he gave the example of in sport like I've just given, you've got the chance to recover. Now in business and daily life, you don't often get the chance to recover. So you have these periods which becomes longer and longer and longer, where you're putting yourself under excessive load to get a result. But you missed that super compensation because the amount of load you're putting on means there's no recovery and that means that the result you get it, but you get it it's such a hopper that after a long period of time you end up burning out, and that's what we want to avoid. So this is why it's important to remember there in daily life and business you need the recovery aspect in there, it should be like a training program.

Lisa: And there was a really good example last week. High end executives really pushing the limits on a business point of view and in doing that day in day out, year in, year out and leading—but leading to problems. And this is a societal problem where we all under the pump all the time, or a lot of us are. And that does lead and it's trying to manage your—the physiology because our physiology is still old. And the fact that it’s ancient, our DNA hasn't necessarily evolved to our current lifestyle and so trying to manage this as best we can to get the best results.

Now talk about super compensation, I did a really hard CrossFit workout yesterday, and I've got very sore ass cheeks today. So I'm not going to go and smash myself again today, and that because I want that super compensation. The fact that I have sore muscles, sore glutes, and sore legs means and I caused a training stimulus. So right now my body is weaker and I need to give it a bit of recovery, and recovery might mean doing a bit of yoga today and a gentle walk and maybe a light jog. But it doesn't mean going and smashing myself again today because that will likely lead to a negative adaptation. And I want to get the most out of that painful workout yesterday. So I know to back off a little bit today. 

And that's what hold training plans are about—getting that combination right and that periodisation right for your particular goal. And that's what we do with Running Hot, with all our athletes that we're training is periodisation. So that they peak at the right time, and they get the most super compensation and not the negative adaptations that can happen when you start to go into that overtraining. And it's quite counterintuitive, isn't it? Because as athletes, you just want to go hard and go hard again the next day and then go home. You've had a sleep, you've had some food, you should be good to go again. But you do need that recovery time, both on a 24 hour hourly basis, as on a monthly basis, as on a yearly basis. So we're going to talk a little bit about that as we go through the session. These are micro and macro cycles we're talking about. So let's talk a little bit about this and what it is to get this just right? And how important the accumulation of stress can lead to your downfall? And why resilience is really found in race?

So what are some of the symptoms for somebody, either as an athlete, or as a corporate athlete, or someone who's got three kids and two day jobs, what are some of the signs that that stress is starting to take a toll on their physiology and on their psychology as well?

Neil: For mental health point of view, we've got people on too much load and too much stress is where depression will start to come in—anxiety, anger. And those feelings, the risk of chronic disease goes through the roof that just jumps up, jumps up massively and puts more load on the body, and then the immune system just starts to drop as well because that additional load, there's no rest on the body. 

On the flip side, if you've got the balance just right. So we're talking about that super compensation, you're getting the balance, right, so you're getting that result, then you're going to feel calm, you're going to feel more proactive. There'd be lots of growth and recovery. And from a health point of view, your health is optimised, and your immune system’s strong. 

Now, a lot of people we're speaking to in the trap of going hard, going hard, going hard, it’s going hard. And then we get those feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, and more disease issues. As we work through people's blood with them, we're seeing higher risk of disease when we're looking at bloods now than what we have done in the past, which has a bigger impact, obviously, on immune system and future chronic disease as well. 

So taking in those and listening, you will have found those times in life where you felt that productivity was good, you felt calm, there was good growth, and you feel on point. I guarantee you, when you look at those times, you'd have had good balance, and you've had enough rest and recovery in the day, in the week, the month, the year. It means that you're getting those benefits you should from a stress management point of view. And some of you listening as well will have experienced the others and most of us—Lisa and I have at some different points in life, where you experienced the anxiety, the anger, because you've got the balance wrong. And that's an easy—easy is the wrong word to use. But once you understand that, it is an easy fix to make.It's just understanding the how to make the fix so you get the resilience.

And as you said earlier in the exercise example, it's counterintuitive because the resilience is found in rest. But society will say to us that resilience is found in pushing harder, in doing more, doing more and doing more, but it's found in rest. And that's where a lot of the happy feelings and emotions are found as well, by taking time out, time to reflect time to show gratitude, and to allow you to move forward. And at the end of the day it's in—you've used this example recently as well, if you haven't been healthy. 

Lisa: You got nothing. You have zero.

Neil: Exactly. So you need it.

Lisa: Yes, and I think like that depression, anxiety and anger part of the puzzle. So these are all your neurotransmitters that are at play here. So your dopamine, your GABA, your serotonin, your adrenaline, your cortisol, all of these things that are actual chemical things in your body causing you to feel a certain way. 

So when you see yourself—and I mean this is definitely talking to me here. When I see myself getting irritable and angry and snapping and being anxious about the future, then I know, “Hang on.” And Neil will say to me, or my husband will say to me, ‘Hey, you're getting out of control again’. And I’m like, ‘Well, okay, I need to take more time out’. And just sometimes like taking a couple of hours out for yourself is not being selfish. And I really, really struggle with this one because it's for me, it's like a guilt, ‘But I should be doing this’, and ‘I should be doing that’. And I've got a billion things on my to do list. And so I hear the people when they say, ‘But I haven't got time for that’. It's like, yes, but do you want to be an asshole to your friends and family? 

Like, if we get down to it, that's what happens, and depressed and miserable and losing the joy of life. When you don't have enough GABA, which is one of your neurotransmitters, and you don't have enough serotonin in your body, that's what you're going to feel. You're going to have lose the love for life, you're going to lose the love for your passions, that your hobbies, you're going to like—not be interested in them anymore, you're not going to have that dopamine hit where you want to get up and go and you're motivated to drive towards something. 

So when you feel that those neurotransmitters are off, by just backing off the accelerator pedal, having some time out to do some health and self care, like I love getting into a sauna, or going for a walk, or doing some stretching, or doing some meditation, or breath work for me is huge. All these things help me manage my emotional state and help my body recover. And we often think that, ‘Ugh, I've just got to get over it. And I'll have a good sleep tonight, and I'll be good’. But if you're not giving your body, the right ingredients, the right nutrients, the right time out and play, then you're not going to have the right combination of neurotransmitters running around in your body. And no matter how much willpower you have, you're probably not going to have a positive outlook on life. And it's something I've really had to learn the hard way. 

Now, after going through a very stressful few months that I've been through with losing my Dad, I've had to prioritize just doing something I love. And for me that might be—I'm into painting at the moment, following my dad's footsteps, and that gives me joy. And finding joy in something is a real key to my mental balance. I'm not being selfish when I take half an hour to paint a picture. I'm not being selfish. I'm being sensible, and I'm looking after my own health and therefore the health of my loved ones. And that does have an effect on our people around us. And none of us want to be that horrible person that's grumpy all the time. It's not much fun. So. 

Neil: Definitely, it’s a great, great example. And thing as well, as people are listening is understanding that what is worked for you won't necessarily work for everyone and vice versa. So it's finding your thing, and your rest and relaxation, self care, it's going to be different for each person. And if you try things, and they're not working for you, resonate with you, then try something else. And once you find your sweet spot, like you described the painting, then you will find those feelings. So, I wouldn't necessarily get it from painting, just because I can't paint. 

Lisa: Neither can I.

Neil: There’s other things I definitely get it from. So it’s understanding that you find what's your sweet spot, and what's going to have that impact on your body. Once you understand that, then it becomes a lot easier to do.

Lisa: And don't think you're being selfish because you're doing it. That's the real key message and trying to prioritize us because it's like where the corporate executives last week. You have to perform. Yes, but underpinning your performance is health. So if you don't have health, it shouldn't be something that you optionally do on the side, it’s one of the things you get around to, it underpins everything. 

So this is part of your health, regime, your practice. And if you see health and looking after yourself, and that's nutrition, that's fitness, that’s all of those things. If you see that as the foundation on which to build your house, that's a different approach, than to seeing it as a pillar on the side that you want to get around to, that you never do get around to. 

For Neil and I, it is fundamental. It is our priority. It is also our business in our case. And we can't be good examples to you guys if we're not performing the best that we can and looking after ourselves. And just reprioritising—having those conversations in your own head is about, ‘it's not being selfish, this is being sensible’. 

So now, I'm going to talk a little bit about the stress curves and the phases that you go through from good health and homeostasis, right through the exhaustion stage. Neil, can you explain this concept a little bit?

Neil: Yes, so we look at different stages as we go through the stress curve. So if we're looking at homeostasis, as you saying good health, this is when the body's in balance, and it's stable and hasn't been pushed, there's no stress on it. And we've got in a calm, there's nothing that changes, changing the environment. So that'd be a nice place to be all the time. But most of us would get bored quite quickly, and would generally get anything done. So good space to be for your body but that's the sweet spot. So we want to spend some time in that. And we want to spend ideally some time in that each day, each week, each month, each year, so we manage those peaks and troughs. 

The alarm stage, which comes next is where we start thinking, readying ourselves for the future. So this is where we've got heightened awareness, increased speed of thinking, higher attention, and generally a higher state of arousal. Nothing's happening yet, but we're readying ourselves for this. So this one of Lisa’s example, could be getting ready for a marathon, or a race, or a running event. It could be getting ready for a big, big meeting, or big presentation where you're preparing yourself for it. You've been going through the process, your body starts, the blood pressure will go up, heart rate will go up. You get a physiological response going on in your body to prepare yourself to what's to come. 

Now that's healthy, if you're not in it all the time. Okay, so that's healthy, it’s good if you're in all the time, we want to be able to ready ourselves for that. Where we're seeing quite a lot of problems at the moment, as people aren't coming out this, they're always on. 

Lisa: Staying on the alarm stage. 

Neil:  They’re always on, they’re always switched on, they're lively. They're always twitchy and ready to go. And if you don't come out of that, then your body's not going to have the chance to recover and you're going to start to get—from a physiological point of view, those stress hormones flying through your body at a great speed. And that's what starts to put more problems on the body and problems with health. And that's where we see more issues with chronic disease and where we see bigger issues and those feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and mental health. 

Lisa: Mental health. I mean, I've got like an example there with just being open about my life with going through the drama with my dad and losing him. And being in that alarm phase, where we're fighting for his life for a couple of weeks in hospital and going harder, harder, in that absolute. I was in the alarm stage, and then the next stage, which is the resistance stage, where you're actually in the doing. And now we lost the battle, in that case. 

And now, the anxiety that comes with being in that state for a few months, means that my body needs a massive amount of recovery right now. It doesn't need to be smashed and smashed with really high intensity workouts constantly and I'm slowly—but rebuilding, but it's the understanding that that's had a trauma on your life. And that has led to a very bad state of affairs, as far as all your exhaustion, all your stress hormones were concerned. And if I don't do something about that now, what that could lead to as real big health issues. 

And I saw this when I went through it with my mom, four and a half years ago with her journey. I went hard out for the first 10, 11 months like to the point of like, absolutely blind myself to pieces, and I had to because she needed that. But then my body shut down, and then I was in and out of hospital. And I was in shit creek basically for the next year because my body was in that exhaustion stage, which is what we're going to talk about next. And so it's understanding—just as that's an example of my life, but we are going in and out of these stages on a daily basis, but also on a weekly basis and on a monthly and yearly basis. 

So we just talked about the alarm stage where you're ready for action, but nothing's actually happened yet. So you're all anticipating and then you're in the actual resistance stage, which is the doing part of putting stress on your body. So you're taking action, you're making your body adjust and cope with the environment and you're in the fight. You're using the fuel and your body is resisting the stress. So this could be doing a workout. It could be situations like I was in, this is where you're going under slipped, maybe you're tired, you're pushing through, your stress hormones are very, very high. And this is a stage you can also get really stuck, isn’t that Neil?

Neil: Yes, it's spending too long here as well. A good example where we see too many people doing it is—I was having this conversation, someone today is just not getting enough sleep. We've all done it where we've had deadline at work or lots going on, but so many people are pushing it further and further and further now. So even though you're tired, you push through, using your stress hormones to stay on it, and there comes a point where your body will just stop producing the stress hormones as it should. And then you're really into the neutral phase. And that's when you start to get the risk of the chronic disease and the other feelings that we talked about—anxiety, depression, and the mental health side of things. 

Lisa: There is a reason why chronic disease is just going up exponentially in society today, I mean that and toxins and environment and all that sort of jazz and food chains. But one of the big problems is this chronic state of exhaustion all the time I think, so that actually...

Neil: To add to your point earlier, you shouldn’t add the other things in it like poor food. You then add pollution, you add in toxins we've got around us. 

Lisa: Heavy metals.

Neil: All of those things have all increased, and they've increased massively over previous years. And we're looking after our bodies less than we ever have done. So now we're in a position that they add those other things on top, and all of a sudden, the load just comes more and more and more. 

So it's been where as well—where your stress is coming from, like we spoke about the start. It could be that simply by changing your eating habits, or the time of day you're eating, and what you're eating, and when you're eating, all of a sudden, that actually takes a load off your body. So you manage your work a whole lot more effectively. Sometimes the answer isn't actually just addressing what's under your nose and addressing your work, it could be addressing your food, your movement, how you're looking after your mind and all those things and then change your perception of work totally. So you can manage it a whole lot more effectively. 

Lisa: Yes, absolutely. So the last stage that we wanted to talk about is going into the exhaustion stage, which is what we just explained, Neil, where you're absolutely been on the go for—God knows how many weeks, months, years, and your body is starting to shut down. And this is where you are starting to get chronic problems, and serious ones. 

And this is the phase you don't want to get into because this is where you're going to be set on your ass, whether you like it or not, where your health is going to go down like mine did. And you will be forced to take a break. But we want to prevent that whenever possible. I mean, sometimes life is just going to throw a curveball at you. But if you understand this process, and you can perhaps stop getting to that exhaustion stage and understand that those stress hormones, I think most people think, ‘I've heard stress is bad for me. But how is it bad for me’? 

Well, if we just go back, and I have talked about this a couple of times, but your parasympathetic and your sympathetic nervous systems, you've got these two systems, your rest and recovery and your sort of go-go-go state of affairs. And that sure is sympathetic, and most of us are sympathetic dominant. We're not having enough time for that rest and recovery, and our ancient biology is just really not keeping up. 

And when you are in that fight or flight state, and you've got lots of cortisol and you've got lots of adrenal and you're taking energy away from your immune system, you are taking energy away from your digestive system, you're taking blood flow away from different parts of your brain, so you're not unable to make good decisions. You're unable to digest your food, and then you're affect your absorption. And that can affect your thyroid and it can affect your immune system, and on and on it goes. 

So this is how stress actually has a physical effect on the body. It's not just a mental thing. I think people think often it's just a mental—under stress as a mental—no, it's very much a physical reaction of the body about where the body is putting the resources. You have a limited finite amount of money in the bank, or energy in the body, and their body is going to prioritise the areas that are most important. 

So if it thinks that you're running away from the lion, it's going to put all the energy into making stress hormones, to making sure your blood is in your muscles so that you can run and you can fight. It's not going to be—in helping your immune system repair. It's not going to be in fighting infection. It's not going to be digesting and this is where the resources are being put. So it's like you spending all the money that you earn from your job in one particular area of your life and not paying the mortgage. That's what's happening. And you need to be paying that mortgage otherwise you're going to lose the house. That's a really good analogy, actually isn't Neil? 

Neil: Yes, it’s a great comparison. And it brings us back to where we were talking about the start is where you're allocating your time to. In that example where you're allocating your money to, but if you're allocating all of your funds, all your time to one particular area, then something else is going to suffer.

Lisa: It's going to crash. We like to think we're superheroes and Neil you’re very, very close to being a superhero. But we're not really, we’re not really both.

Neil: Thanks. For me, I’m a little bit of one.

Lisa: Yes, for your kids.

Neil: And understanding as well that these different phases that we've just been talking about. You can go through these levels in one day, which was what we call a micro cycle, or you can over a longer period of time, months, years—go through them as a macro cycle, so a bigger cycle. 

So we've talked about what happens if we stay in these phases, each of these phases too long. And Lisa has given some real good examples from her life is what does actually happen, from a mental and physical point of view, as well. So the fact that you can go through them each day, the exciting thing about that is you can put yourself in a position that you can control them each day. So you might feel like it's a big mountain to climb. And you've got to do a lot before you can get a grip of it. But you can actually make some quite significant easy changes each day to mean that you can start going in and out of these.  

And sometimes just little micro rests, small rests, small windows opportunity where you actually can switch off the body, switch off the mind. And again, different things work for different people. But once you find your thing, start doing more of it because this will get you longer results in work, family, and sport as well. It applies to every aspect of the puzzle. 

We talk a lot as well with getting people become more aware of themselves. So when we talk about awareness, we will look at the load that’s going to put on people's body. And I know that this has made a big difference that hasn't at least just been increasing our awareness around stress and our own personal wellness. And as we've increased that, it's made a big difference to what we're doing. And generally, we've seen those with lower awareness will generally tend to externalize their problems more, lose control more, the factors influencing their mood in life, and often will blame others more—it's someone else's fault, someone else's problem. 

The greater awareness is, you’re more likely to take ownership of our problems, more likely to deal with them, and control our mood or health and how we look at the world. So it puts us in a much better position. Generally as well, we've seen that awareness will increase with age, although this isn't always the case. 

Lisa: Not always. 

Neil: Not always the case, the increase in experience. So as we've dug deeper into the science of what we do, how we do it, is definitely increased our awareness to the point that as we've experienced more things, coach more people through these things, our perspectives changed and as well, the way we self-reflect. And that's all led to low levels of stress because we've now got a better understanding of what's going on, why it's going on, and what load is having on our body so we can do something about it. 

Lisa: And we can look after each other better, just as business partners, right? 

Neil: Great point. Great point. 

Lisa: It’s really important for corporate teams or sports teams to start recognizing signs and others And if you are more aware than the other person is then you can help them more and that is your responsibility then to be aware of other people and their needs around you. So that you can actually prevent things from spiralling out of control, and support each other a little bit better. And back off when things are getting tough for somebody and push a bit harder when someone needs a kick up the jacksy. So it's all about helping others and being more aware. 

So if you find yourself blaming everybody else for the situation, then you're probably not very aware of things that are going on because you're just externalizing. If you're moaning a lot, ‘Well this is shit and that is shit. And my boss's this and my things that’, then you might want to have a look at the way that you're actually processing things and understanding things and take more ownership. 

I'll give you an example of this with some of the people that come to ask for health problems and health consulting and health optimisation. I can sort of pretty much tell in the first 10 minutes whether this person is taking ownership of the situation, or whether they're just blaming everybody else and they're angry about it, but they want a magic bullet. And the ones who want an instant fix in blaming everyone else and not taking ownership over the situation are very difficult to work with from a coaching perspective and also very unlikely to get great results. And will likely blame you in six week’s time because they didn't get the result. 

And they will go through 10 coaches and they'll go through 20 coaches and they will still have no results at the end of it. And it’s not necessarily the coaches’ problems, or the health professional problem, it is often the fact that they are not taking ownership about the things that they can take ownership on, in educating themselves and working on it. 

So you can start to work on pieces of the puzzle. You may have a big health issue, for example, and now we work with some people with some pretty serious freaking health issues. And when you can work on a piece of it today and this piece of it, and we can work like a detective, and we can work through problems, you don't have to tackle the whole thing at once. But it's being more aware, ‘Am I a person who goes through life blaming everybody else, blaming the system, blaming that? Or am I someone who does something about it? Takes ownership, start to make change in your own life, and affect what you can as well as trying to influence the world around you’? Does it make sense?

Neil: It makes perfect sense, Lisa. It really does. It's a great, great takeaway for the listeners, as well, just ask yourself that question, ‘Where am I at from a self-awareness perspective with regards to my own personal wellness’? And you can use those examples you just went through there, put a scale on it. 

But we've got a great list of questions, Lisa. We can start to get the listeners to use to increase their awareness around their own stress. The thing we wanted to point out as well as we start to wrap things up is that everyone will respond to stress in a different way. So therefore, the way we respond to stress is going to be different. So therefore, the way we manage it is going to be different as well. 

So as you're going through these questions, there's no right answer, there's no correct answer. It's an answer that should be individual to you and should be personal to you. So ask the question, What is the biggest stress you've got at the moment? And how is it expressing? What is the stress you're expressing in your body? 

Number two, what normally causes stress for your body? So you'll be very aware how your body reacts and feels in different situations. So take time to listen to what it's saying, where you feel stress increasing, you feel your anxiety levels climb, and just feel your body tensing? If you start to get signs and symptoms—and again, it's going to be different for everybody and take note of them and do something about them. We work with so many people that get the signs and symptoms, but don't take note of them and don't do anything about them. 

How's the stress showing up? Is it coming in certain environments? Is it around certain people? Is it around certain conversations? So again, ask that question, when is it showing up? When is it arriving? Can you change anything there to make sure it doesn't show up? And what can be done immediately to alleviate the feeling and to support your biology? You made the great reference earlier in the conversation about painting and what that does for you. For me going and moving and I know this works for you as well, Lisa, but going in and moving, getting something, going rhythmical is great for my mind. That could be walking, swimming, running, cycling doesn't have to be anything high intensity, but just movement helps massively. Rhythmical movement will help calm my body, calm my mind. 

And what can those around you do to support you? Now as we've been throughout our career as coach and athlete, and now in business, we're very aware of how we can support each other. But that's taken time to have the conversations and work through it and talk to each other about it. I know you do with Haisley, and I do it with my wife, Sam. Once you understand those things, and we've set it up with the people we work with around us as well, it makes a massive difference. If people understand how to support you, and are aware that there's different ways that different people are going to get stressed—what stresses you is going to be different for me. So if I don't take the time to understand that, I'm going to be going through thinking, ‘Now it doesn't worry me, it's not going to worry Lisa’, and that work in both directions. 

And number six, what can I do to manage my stress response better? So again, just asking the question would increase awareness. The fact that we're drawing attention to it increases awareness, which means we're more likely to do something about it. Then finally, what are the long-term strategies that I can implement to lower my residual stress? So once I work out the answers to the previous questions, then what can I do long term? And it could be as simple as we're big fans, as we always say, of what's the low hanging fruit? Is it simple now that I go to question five and go, right, ‘What can others do to support me? Am going to make those around me—my family, my friends, my close work colleagues—am I going to make them aware of what's causing me stress, so that they can help me and pull me up’? 

Like we do with each other will often pull each other up and go, ‘Right. This is clearly getting a bit much’. Going this direction, we'll do this differently, or you give me time to do things and process things because you know that helps keep me calm. And when you're going fast and hard, I say well, ‘Time to slow down. It's great but you’re getting too excited, come back’. And that works for us. So increasing awareness really does help you get results rather than just accepting that, ‘I'm going to carry on with the back pain. I'm going to carry on the inflammation in my body. I'm going to carry on with the upset stomach. And not connect them back to something external that’s causing it. 

Lisa: That’s a really good one because like I had a conversation with someone today and I've got repeated inflammation in the body, repeated pains in the neck, and then not connecting the dots. They connected one dot today that I went, ‘Hah, finally something is starting to drop’. When you are having pains every which way in the body, if your initial thing was to go, ‘Well, I've tweaked my back’. Instead of going, ‘Hang on, why am I having ongoing injuries? Or why am I having a stack of things happening to me? Or why am I getting pains here, and then I'm getting pains there, there's something underlying going on’.

And what we're saying is often that underlying thing is an inflammatory response is related to stress, very often you'll find a component at least of stress. And then it can you know, as we see, it can be from a food stress or toxins, through a psychological stress, from lack of movement, stress, or lack of sleep, dehydration, but these are all forms of stress. And so understanding what is the trigger and trying to connect the dots and this is where that self-awareness. 

And in using these simple tools that we've been talking about on this podcast and other podcasts that we've done—the breath work stuff, the meditation stuff, and the movement stuff, the routines for habits, the healthy habits that you develop over time, and you start to stack one on another. And these little things that help you manage your biology, and help you manage your dopamine levels and your serotonin, all your good neurotransmitters, and your hormones and all these things. And it is about tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak, until your life starts to look better, feel better, and be better. And then it will be a constant thing. It's not like you're going to do this once and you're good to go. 

Neil and I have a whole lot of tools in our kit that we can pull out in times of stress to help us get through. However, we're still going to have times when we tip out of balance, and then we need each other and their family members and other—my friends to put us back in the balance again, and just make us aware. It's not a one and done thing. It's a constant tweaking, learning, growing process, about trying to keep yourself in a good, a good state, both physically and mentally. 

Neil: A lot more and more, Lisa. I'm asking people, it should be like with some of these things that you do to look after your body. It should be like brushing your teeth. I ask the people I'm working with one on one, I say, ‘Right, did you brush your teeth today’? Now know what I mean? I've asked two or three people, really say, ‘We brushed our teeth’. And what I meant was, ‘Have you done any mobility work? Have you done the breathing work and what's right for their biology? Have you been out, spent time in nature, and I might get responses like their response that they're actually a bit fluffy today. 

But we do those things every day. And you talk about habit stacking. And it's exactly that. If you can brush your teeth every day, then you can do the other things that will control and maximize your health and do them as well, the simple little things, it’s not just about brushing your teeth. So let's start putting some other things in practice that do that crucial awareness. We don’t do it, isn’t it?

Lisa: We think we have to have the most expensive piece of equipment or the best supplement or the greatest course or—actually if we just did the basics right, often that will give us a good foundation. Yes, we can get fancy fancy stuff later and get more into it if you want to really tweak your biology which we love doing and testing and trialing and experimenting, but just getting those basics right. And yes, making it the underlying underpinning philosophy of your whole life, that has to be at the core of it. Health, looking after yourself has to be at the core of it, and it is not being selfish. 

Again, I had someone else today, very stressful life, a lot going on. I’m telling them the same thing we can week out, they're coming back with this problem and that problem, and they're not hearing what's going on, and they're not willing to invest in the right things, or to buy the right foods, or to sit down and actually go through the process of actually making the small changes. Because they want the quick answer and you have to look after yourself and they also don't prioritise themselves. Everybody else comes before them. 

And therefore they are going to be unhealthy ongoing until they can come to that point of self awareness that they have to be doing these small changes and getting the micronutrients and avoiding certain things and changing just little behaviors so that they can actually be a good father, a good husband, a good wife, a good friend, a good colleague, whatever the case may be, put your own oxygen mask on first before you help somebody else. It's not being selfish. So I think that's a pretty good place to wrap it up for today, isn't it Niel?

Neil: I agree. Agree. As always good chatting mate, good chatting. 

Lisa: Good chatting. And if you enjoyed this, please let us know. We'd love to get here. You know what you thought about the shows that we're putting out, the information that we're putting out. We'd love to get comments and feedbacks, of course rating and reviews are always appreciated. But just yes, if it's helped you let us know. 

If you want more information, and of course, we'd love to work with you. Reach out to us as we have our epigenetics program, which is all about understanding your genes and how they interact with the environment and how to optimise and getting rid of trial and error, and knowing what to do for your body. Then we also have our online run training programs, of course, which we love, training athletes, going and doing amazing things all around the place again, or a holistic approach to everything that we do. 

So reach out to us, support@listamati.com. We'll find both new life and thanks for listening today. We really appreciate your time and attention. Any last comments, mate? 

Neil: I’d like to say good chatting. We're looking forward to another conversation soon.

Lisa: Right. I'm going to go and do some movement in nature. Brilliant. We'll see you next week, everybody. 

That's it this week for Pushing the Limits. Be sure to rate, review, and share with your friends and head over and visit Lisa and her team at lisatamati.com. 

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My favourite running podcast by miles⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This is the best podcast for long runs. Lisa is just so relatable, honest, funny and inspires me to push my own limits. Awesome guests (I particularly enjoyed the podcast with Kim Morrison) and a wide variety of topics covered. Thanks for keeping me running, Lisa!
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Always great guests, great insights and learnings that can be applied immediately for every level of experience.


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I am getting my mojo back with regards to my health and running after treatment for breast cancer, I connected with Lisa as I was looking for positive influences from people who are long distance runners and understand our mindset. Lisa’s podcasts have been a key factor in getting me out of a negative space where I allowed others limiting beliefs to stop me from following my heart and what I believe is right for me. After 18 months of being in cancer recovery mode I wanted to get out of the cancer mindset and back to achieving goals that had been put aside. Listening to Pushing The Limits has put me onto other great podcasts, and in the process I have learnt so much and am on a pathway to a much better place with my mindset and health. Thanks so much Lisa for doing what you do and always being you.


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