As part of Trinity’s Health and Sports week, students were treated to complimentary tea, coffee and refreshments at the Bank of Ireland branch in the Hamilton Building yesterday afternoon. In this year’s programme Trinity are addressing the four pillars of health and wellness: exercise, nutrition, sleep and mindfulness. Mark McGauran and David Lynch, instructors with Trinity Sport and columnists with this paper, gave a talk that covered these aspects.
We have all experienced stress at a stage in our lives, with some of us being able to manage it better than others. Lynch talked us through the causes and signs of stress, stating that stress is “both physical and psychological”. He defined stress as “a perception”. A lot of the time we perceive that we cannot handle a situation and this induces stress and tension. Long-term stress can be a trigger to many health implications. “Stressors”, or factors causing stress, can be either external or internal.
Many external stressors such as major life changes, expectations, relationship difficulties, financial problems, family life and deadlines – which most students know all about at this time of year – cannot be controlled. Internal stressors are those which we create ourselves. Many of us strive to be perfectionists and set unrealistic goals.These internal stressors however, can be controlled. “Awareness is half the battle”, Lynch stated. “When we are aware that we are stressed, we are more capable of overcoming it.” There are certain situations that we cannot control and pessimism or negative self-doubt will never provide relief in these instances.
“There’s a time and a place for stress”, Lynch continued. Not all stress is bad. From a sports persons’ point of view, too little or too much stress can inhibit performance but if they can find that medium, that state of flow, it can lead to optimal performance. Lynch also provided tips on managing and limiting stress and talked about the importance and purpose of sleep along with the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
Stress and sleep are related. Research recommends seven to nine hours sleep each night, which most students would typically not achieve. When we sleep, stress hormones such as cortisol are switched off and regulated. When our hormones are imbalanced our mood is affected. Lynch declared that “people cannot only function physically when they are sleep deprived, but also cognitively as well”. Our reactions and decision-making processes are slowed down. Lynch argued that it doesn’t make sense for us to cut our sleep in order to get more work done. If we invest in good quality sleep, we can lead a more fulfilling life: “You may sleep for approximately one third of your life but consider that third as a direct investment into the success and the quality of the other two”. With this being said, it is clear that having a premium mattress is too an investment in the quality of life. Those with uncomfortable mattresses are unlikely to be having sufficient sleep that could leave them in any way well-rested. When choosing a new mattress, it is advised that you read online reviews before buying so that your purchase may be an informed one.
McGauran carried on with the next section of the talk which focused on health and wellbeing, as well as the truth about carbohydrates. We’ve been led to believe by lifestyle “influencers” and dieting fads that carbohydrates should be kept to a minimum, if not avoided in our daily diet. Yet McGauran states that “carbohydrates are fuel for muscle and mind” and over or under consumption can be devastating for athletes. McGauran recommends food that slowly releases energy throughout the day and which are also full of fibre and nutrients. “They make us feel fuller with fewer calories” and “naturally stimulate metabolism”, he said.
McGauran also compared good fats to bad fats and discussed food sensitivity. He explained that where your fat is stored is an indication of your hormonal profile, or a specific profile of it: “A deposition of fat in certain areas can be a sign of stress in the body. The umbilical area has huge receptors for stress in the body.” Some athletes tend to have high scores of body fat in this area, with stress from over training being the cause. He concluded by advising “to stay close to nature” when choosing our fat sources.
As Health and Sports Week ends, Friday will see Keith Woods speak in Trinity. Woods is a former Irish Rugby captain and Healthy Ireland Chairperson, so the talk promises to be a very enlightening conclusion to the week.