Stress Management for the Busy Professional
Bestselling author and fitness expert Igor Klibanov became interested in how stress impacts humans as a personal trainer when he was frustrated by a lack of results for certain clients who were adhering to all best practices.
Klibanov began studying how hormones and stress levels impact body fat levels and has since become an expert on how stress impacts individuals.
“You intuitively know that it’s not doing your health and performance much good,” he said. “Busy professionals in high-stress jobs are keenly aware of the effects, including low energy, poor mental clarity and often an increase in belly fat.”
Today, Klibanov and his team of fitness professionals specialize in helping busy professionals improve their fitness, energy levels, and health. He has been hired to run fitness seminars for IBM, RBC, American Express, Qualcomm, and many others.
Klibanov presented Stress Management for the Busy Professional as part of the Think Innovate mini-event that preview sessions at Think Innovate 2022, a technology and operations innovation conference that will convene 200+ C-level executives, business owners, and government executives October 19-20 in Owings Mills, MD. That presentation was taken from his book, STOP EXERCISING! The Way You Are Doing it Now, which he’s made available for free to attendees here.
Klibanov explained the impact of stress on the body and provided an à la carte menu of 12 strategies busy professionals can use to reduce the negative impacts of stress on their health, performance, and wellbeing.
Klibanov describes two types of stress:
- Acute stress, like job interviews, getting pulled over etc.
- Chronic stress, like a bad work environment or relationship.
He explained that an argument could be an acute stress that becomes a chronic stress if it goes unresolved.
During acute stress, cortisol, a primary stress hormone, is triggered and levels surge, but usually come down after the stress is gone. Cortisol in short bursts is beneficial (it acts as an anti-inflammatory for example), but when cortisol levels are elevated for long periods of time, it triggers a host of maladies.
Impacts of Chronic Stress
Klibanov provided a laundry list of negative impacts of stress.
It can decrease thyroid function which impacts the body’s metabolism, often resulting in cold hands and feet, persistent tiredness, constipation and a thinning of the outer third of your eyebrow. This means someone can eat the same number of calories, but not burn as much.
Cortisol also breaks down muscle into sugars, so many experience a decrease in muscle. Cortisol and testosterone come from cholesterol. If cortisol is high, then testosterone is low usually resulting in less energy among other side effects.
Blood pressure often increases because cortisol raises blood sugars in response to a threat.
“This helps you in a fight or flight response but doesn’t help if you are sitting in front of your computer and don’t use the sugar,” Klibanov explains.
He added that constipation is also a side effect of stress that helps in fight or flight scenarios but can become an issue with chronic stress.
“Cortisol also increases blood clotting which helped ensure our ancestors wouldn’t bleed out, but it doesn’t help if you’re not bleeding,” he said. “It also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease over time.”
The increase in cortisol also temporarily boosts the immune system, but it often leaves the immune system weaker in the long run. This makes individuals more susceptible to diseases, including cancer.
Other vital functions negatively impacted by chronic stress include decreased memory and sleep and increased cravings.
Customize Your Stress Management
Klibanov highlighted 12 effective stress management strategies and encouraged the audience to pick the ones that work best for them.
- Punch something (not someone) to release some of the fight or flight response.
- Sleep can be difficult because people get stuck in a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep because they are stressed and becoming more stressed because they can’t sleep. For better sleep, Klibanov recommended: ensuring total darkness, no electronics in bed, cool down the room to reach deep sleep, wear glasses that block blue light, magnesium (regularly for 2-3 weeks), and finally melatonin.
- Massages can help relax the brain.
- The 3-breath interrupt or simply pausing to take three slow (but not deep) breaths helps to slow your mind.
- Exercise gives the extra sugar somewhere to go (the muscles) instead of staying in the blood.
- Identify the stressor at times when you are stressed, but you aren’t sure why. This can help make the stress more manageable.
- Make a Plan once you have identified the stress. Not addressing the issue can make acute stress turn into chronic stress.
- What can you control? We often worry about things we can’t control and recognizing this can reduce our stress about it.
- What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll often be surprised that even the worst-case scenario isn’t that bad. This is even more powerful if you write it down.
- Punctuality is something that you can usually control. Simply, give yourself extra time to avoid stress.
- Look for the positive and be grateful for what you have. Changing your perspective to see the glass half full helps reduce the impact of stressors.
- Find distractions … that distract you in a positive way. Going for a walk could be a good distraction for some, but not everyone.
Klibanov also stressed that consuming healthy foods and sufficient nutrients enhances your stress-coping ability.
He encouraged attendees to try these methods to put together a customized and comprehensive plan to cope with stress. He also noted that it is important for busy professionals to prioritize things like exercise.
“People always complain that they don’t have time to work out, but it just isn’t true,” he said. “It isn’t a time issue, it’s a prioritization issue. If exercise is a high enough priority, you will find the time for it.”