In his book The Stress Code, Richard Sutton uncovers the habits that make elite athletes stress resilient
I recently made my (slow) way through The Stress Code by Richard Sutton, which, as its name implies, is a book about Stress. Sutton is a health and performance educator, consultant and top expert in his field. He has coached and advised top athletes, like Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, Olympic Teams and the international sporting federation.
In his latest book The Stress Code, Sutton goes into how we can manage stress in life, business and sport. Stress is an inevitable part of everyone’s life and not all stress is bad stress; in fact, some stress is key to helping us break through barriers and achieve our potential. It is ongoing chronic stress that can be a precursor to burnout, disease and premature aging.
His book is a tough but interesting read. It’s scientifically backed with loads of studies inserted throughout. It’s not the book you inhale, but rather breathe in slowly over weeks, trying to absorb the information he lays out. Sutton both explains stress and what it does to your body (good and bad), as well as provides solutions to managing it.
He discusses topics like swimming, yoga, meditation, vitamins and adaptogens, with a practical and scientific flair that makes not only for educational reading, but reading you can apply to your daily life. For me, his chapter on swimming as stress management was my little aha. It explains why I always feel better after a swim, has made me do more underwater drills, and is something I think about every time I swim now. His chapter on adaptogens had me reaching for a forgotten bag of Ashwagandha at the back of my pantry, to make an adaptogenic latte. While the chapter on how elite athletes manage their stress, has given me a little guide of easy things I can do to manage both physical and mental stress.
With permission, I’m sharing parts of his Chapter 4, where he explains lessons, we can learn from elite athletes on managing stress. We’re also giving away 3 copies of The Stress Code.
Lessons from Elite Athletes on Managing Stress
Most professional athletes start their careers at a young age and are exposed to ongoing stress and challenge. As they train and try to reach the top, they suffer from pain, fatigue, loneliness, social isolation, financial worries, disappointments and the uncertainty of trying to turn sport into a career. Despite the stress they’re constantly exposed to, research has shown that professional athletes are less likely to suffer from heart disease and cancers and are more likely to live longer than non-athletes.
They have a resilience to stress and life challenges that Sutton explored. He identified the following stress resilience habits that athletes employ to manage their stress.
- Viewing stress as a positive and learn to channel it into a benefit (ie. enabling stress to allow you to push to the next level).
- Reaching out to a support structure during stressful periods
- Encouraging and supporting team members
- Daily meditation, visualization and controlled breathing
- Incorporating regular massages and / or physical therapy into their schedules.
- Practicing yoga or stretching sessions
- Consistently taking high quality nutritional supplements and vitamins
- Limiting their coffee and alcohol intake
- Using music as a stress management tool.
- Regular use of water-based modalities such as swimming, ice baths and contrast showers, to promote recovery and fitness.
- Carefully managing training and exercise
Utilizing these habits, he explains allows athletes build stress resilience by changing how they perceive stress and changing behaviors during stressful periods. They also develop skills and know how to shut down stress and incorporate lifestyle activities that rebuild physical, emotional and cognitive abilities by stimulating key hormones and molecules.
Not all these habits will make sense for everyone, especially as some are more specific to athletes who are putting their bodies through stress and need to manage that (i.e. regular massages, swimming or ice baths). However, there are plenty habits in the book, that are easy to adopt and practice to help manage both mental and physical stress.
WIN 1 OF 3 COPIES OF THE STRESS CODE
We’re giving away 3 copies of the Stress Code. To enter simply tell us what you do to manage stress.
You can enter in three ways. Each method counts as one entry.
- Comment on the post below and tell us what you do to manage stress
- Head over to our Instagram, and comment on this post
- Head over to our Facebook Page, and comment on this post
By entering this competition, you accept our t’s&c’s. Competition ends Thursday, 11 April 2019. Only valid for South African residents.
This competition is sponsored by Pan Macmillan, opinions are our own.
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Photography: Feige Lewin