How Important Is Stress For You?

Without Stress we can’t grow, but too much of it and we feel our walls are closing in. Rather than every time you’re stressed you feel that it’s a negative situation, just know that it’s the perception you give to it. It isn’t always bad, you need stress. You can no doubt have too much of it, so much of it in fact that it can have negative side effects.

But the stress you deal with now, can be the thing that allows you to rise up on future occasions in your life when other would crumble. Stress equals growth when you have the right amounts and the right types. With the right perception the stress can be absolutely essential to personal, physical, spiritual and mental growth.

You have 2 sides to the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic (stress) and parasympathetic (relaxation). You grow most when you can find balance in the time spent on both. This is where the term balance comes into realisation and what many try and find. Although many try seeking to spend 24/7 on the relaxation side. Smart but is it sustainable? Or vice versa?

Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system receives information about the bodies internal and external environment. This amazing system responds to that information it receives by stimulating different areas in the body (organs and systems), usually through the sympathetic side, or inhibiting them which is completed usually by the parasympathetic side.

Although it is Automatic, we can willingly do things to activate both sides, pretty amazing stuff right?

We can stimulate the sympathetic side by our perceptions of situations, people and environments we encounter. We can force stress upon ourselves through different means to initiate growth. Doing it in a smart way to greatly impact positively on your life as a whole.

What are different forms of stress we place ourselves in?

  • Heat - Sauna.
  • Cold - Cold Water.
  • Exercise - an Active Lifestyle.
  • Fears - doing something that scares you.
  • Breath Holds - holding your breath.
  • CO2 Tolerance - breath holds and high C02 Levels while exercising and undertaking tasks.

I’m going to go through each of these so you realise the positive benefits of each and some basic steps and routines to ‘safely’ place yourself willingly into them. Plus I’ll link to some great articles and experts in these areas for you to do some extra research yourself if it interests you.

It’s important to have an open mind for growth whenever doing this and knowing that you're safe and allow this new experience to unfold.

I really to want to stress this point. The largest growth points in my life, largest success, always came from a place of discomfort.

Heat Stress

Where would you place yourself to experience Heat Stress? Well in a Sauna or Steam Room or any other hot climate.

Every time I have a Sauna, I always feel great, clean and a sense of calm post Sauna. I knew I would be getting a benefit from it, but didn’t know exactly what so I put my head into the research studies so I could find out exactly what is going on.

One person who is especially knowledgeable on Sauna benefits is Rhonda Patrick who can be found at Found My Fitness. She has done some great unbiased research and reports on this so check her out.

Ok, so what’s going on when we have a Sauna?

Here is a list of things here;

During Heat Stress there are Heat Shock Proteins which are released which is positive to promote growth, great for your mental state and the regeneration of cells, the killing off of old ones and producing more and more mitochondria. We have little energy factories within our cells that are responsible for producing energy. These are called Mitochondria and the more we have the more energy we can produce when everything is working efficiently. We produce more and more ATP. The better we perform, think, react and increases our endurance and strength.

It increases growth hormone and protein synthesis so if you’re looking to recover faster after a workout and larger gains in performance, lean muscle and agility, start hitting the sauna post workout.

Heat Exposure Routines

Sauna: I usually take a Sauna after a workout, but sometimes on its own. I recommend hitting the Sauna post workout and also trying it on its own and see which feels better for you.

  1. Complete your workout. Run, HIIT, Strength Training or any other Cardio.
  2. Then hit the Sauna for 20 min.

Hot Yoga: I can’t recommend this highly enough. The benefits are insane and you really do feel the difference in your overall well being, recovery and huge gains in your mental health, focus and memory. The obvious improvements in range of motion, core strength, stability muscles and your natural detoxification systems. It even improves your breathing, calms the nervous system and provides a healthy amount of physical and mental stress during the 90 min session. Also known as Bikram Yoga.

Cold Exposure Stress

Stress from extreme exposure to cold can be very good for promoting our health, our physical and mental growth. Cold Showers and Ice Baths can be great for treating depression and anxiety as well. Norepinephrine releases into the brain when we expose ourselves to extreme cold, promoting focus and enhancing your mood. This is why you feel so invigorated after getting out of the cold water!

Cold exposure increases Neurogenesis which helps with memory, enhances learning capabilities and general mental health. Norepinephrine reduces inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines, TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha). This is a molecule at play in many human diseases like type 2 diabetes and different types of cancer. Inflammatory cytokines play a massive role in mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Cold exposure and immersion definitely enhances mood.

Want to improve longevity? There is research out there showing it improves your longevity too. But I can already hear what you’re thinking! This is why I don’t do it because it’s cold and uncomfortable!

Ok I hear you, it definitely is uncomfortable, but you know what, it actually gets easier. The response to exposing yourself to cold is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (stress, fight or flight) and norepinephrine rises 200 to 300% with cold immersion when in near 0 degrees celsius for 20 seconds / 3 times a week.

Can Cold Exposure Increased Fat Burning?

Yes. It activates cold thermogenesis which is a method your body uses to create heat. It does this by activating BAT which is Brown Adipose Tissue and it burns regular white fat for heat generation through fat oxidation. Pretty cool right?

Cold exposure increases the number of mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis) that we have. So similar to the Heat Shock Proteins, our Cold Shock Proteins get this happening as well.

The brown fat (BAT) gets its colour from the increased amount of Mitochondria, so start to get into the cold!

Remember Heat Shock Proteins? Similar to heat shock proteins that are released during exposure to heat. Cold exposure also releases Cold Shock Proteins called RBM3 (RNA binding motif 3) that is linked to the regeneration of synapses within the brain.

Cold Exposure Routines

Cold Shower: You can begin your day with a cold shower. If you want to ease into it, start with hot water but finish with cold. Once you’re ready, begin getting straight under the cold water. You can do the Wim Hof breathing sequence and release CO2 from your system through 30 x deep heavy breaths.

  1. Complete 30 to 50 deep inhale and exhales (or as many close to this as you can).
  2. On the last breath, exhale and hold.
  3. While holding, turn the cold tap on and jump under.
  4. Keep holding your breath until you begin getting diaphragm contractions.
  5. Begin to deep breathe under the cold shower for anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes.

Ice Bath: You will do the Wim Hof breathing as above and then slide yourself into the ice bath. When i did it, I just bought 3 x bags of ice from the local fuel station and poured them into a pre filled bathtub. I stayed in there for no longer than 10 min.

  1. Complete 30 to 50 deep inhale and exhales (or as many close to this as you can).
  2. On the last breath, exhale and hold.
  3. While holding, get into the ice bath.
  4. Keep holding your breath until you begin getting diaphragm contractions.
  5. Begin to deep breathe under in the ice bath.
  6. Stay in there for as long as you can up until no longer than 10 min.

Exercise Stress

Implementing an active lifestyle is just something you need to do if not already, there is no way around it. You need one for general health, well being and longevity. Not to mention your mental health benefits are just amazing when you exercise for 30 min a day or even 6 x 5 min workout throughout the day.

Here’s the types of exercise;

  • Resistance Training - loading the muscle with weight, anaerobic training.
  • Time Under Tension - placing load on the muscles for an extended period of time.
  • Cardio Fitness - run, ride, swim, aerobic training.
  • Metabolic Conditioning - think a group fitness class, like Body Pump.

You can willingly place yourself into a stressed state to promote growth every time you exercise. When you push yourself that little bit further each time, it’s called growth! Check out these short burst exercise routines that take just 5 minutes here.

Breath Holds

Holding your breath puts yourself into a state of stress and the more often you do it, the longer you can last. You willingly place yourself into a stressed state. A very simple thing to do, with huge upside benefits to your stress management in your daily life.

WARNING! Always have a buddy around in case something goes wrong. Shallow water blackouts do happen and if no-one is there, in 100% of cases the person who blacks out, will drown.

Breath Hold Routine: Hold your breath for as long as you can. Time it and beat it the next day, simple!

But here’s one you can do;

  • Relax for 2 min eyes closed and laying on your back.
  • Inhale 5 sec, Pause 1 sec, Exhale 5 sec, pause 1 sec. Repeat for 2 min.
  • Inhale as much as you can, start the timer and hold.
  • Record the time and try again in a couple of days time.

As you progress and increase your time, you’ll notice you are calmer in stressful situations on the outside world in your daily life.

CO2 Tolerance

Wtf is that? Breath holds and a high level of C02 (carbon dioxide) in the blood, while exercising in different environments and undertaking focused tasks. This is the basis of the training, it is extreme stress.

But why are you talking about CO2? Well this is the urge to breathe. When burning oxygen, the byproduct is CO2. When you’re out of breath, you’re actually not. You just have a high level of CO2. Your brain doesn’t register low oxygen, it registers high levels of CO2 which then creates the urge to breathe.

You can go a lot longer without needing to breathe than you think, in fact a lot longer. So what are some simple routines you can do?

CO2 Tolerance Routines:

WARNING! Always have a buddy around in case something goes wrong. Shallow water blackouts do happen and if no-one is there, in 100% of cases the person who blacks out, will drown.

Here is a couple of routines you can do below;

CO2 Pool Training Tables

Choose a length to swim, this can be anywhere from 5 to 25m in length. You’re doing this on a full breath of air.

Example choosing 15m length;

  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 1:30 min
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 1:20 min
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 1:10 min
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 1:00 min
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 0:50 sec
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 0:40 sec
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 0:30 sec
  • Swim 15m underwater, come up and rest for 0:30 sec

So as you can see the length you swim stays the same, but the rest time reduces. So as you burn oxygen, you also create more and more CO2. But because the rest time reduces, the more and more CO2 builds up in the blood and the urge to breathe comes on sooner and stronger.

So as you progress through the routine, your stress increases and you’re working on yourself mentally to remain in a calm state. The calmer you remain, the further you’ll glide with each stroke which means you’ll complete the routine easier. But that’s one of the tricks on the mind is all you want to do is react to the stress and swim faster to the end. Working harder but stressing more and not making more progress. Sound familiar in our everyday life?

CO2 Tolerance Workout: Simple routine with a single weight doing an overhead press. This could be swapped with body weight squats, push ups or any other type of repetitions you’d like to do.

  • 6 x Rounds.
  • 12kg Dumbell.
  • Take a Full Breath and hold.
  • Complete 10 x Single Arm Overhead Presses.
  • Rest 1 min (breathing).
  • Repeat the other side.
  • Complete this 6 rounds (3 x each side).

Once again placing yourself into a stressful situation, moving your body with elevated levels of CO2.


Doing something that scares you. You know there are fears you steer away from time and time, but imagine if you could get to a point where you could step into those fears?

It is possible and I can tell you that everything you’re wanting is on the other side of your fears. Not all your fears, but there will be 1, 2 or 3 fears you know have been costing you opportunity previously because you continued to steer away from them.

Seeking more of the uncomfortable will by default provide you with more moments of growth. If there is something you deep down know is holding you back, decide on something small today to step into that fear and begin to reap the rewards for what’s on the other side.


Not all stress is bad, in fact stress is great. A life of growth and success can only grow from a place of discomfort. What I mean by that is having the courage to get uncomfortable, to push yourself, to be scared and walk through the unknown.

This is where the growth is and if you can place yourself in stressful situations and learn what you’re capable of, you self confidence and self worth increases along with new standards of yourself.

A successful life, comes from higher standards of yourself and what you’re capable of. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you push yourself that little bit more than yesterday.

Stress is a good thing, chronic stress is not such a good thing. Inflammation that’s followed by regeneration is a good thing. Loading up your body, putting it under duress, testing your mind are all good things which promote further growth and learning about yourself.

Step into your fears, step into the uncomfortable and you’ll see more opportunity and a more fulfilling life appear as a result.


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Adam Phillips – Founder of Life Grip