I am currently sitting in the midst of the peace and quiet of a thousand islands, with birdsong and the sound of the sea in the background. The sun is shining, and there is a sense of spring in the air, but it is still quite cool here. I am in the midst of beautiful nature, and it’s as if time stands still here. I am in the middle of the Baltic Sea, where a large number of islands are clustered together, one after another. According to the latest census data, there are 6,500 of them. Together, they form the autonomous Swedish-speaking Åland Islands, one of the most beautiful archipelago regions in the world. From May to August, this region experiences the most sunny days in the Nordic countries.
Life brought me to Åland for the first time in 2010, and I fell in love instantly. By now, I’ve visited here so many times that I’ve lost count. But every time I come here, I feel so at home, and a strange sense of peace washes over me. Perhaps it’s because of the magnificent nature here and the water all around, which always brings me to this place and soothes me. The original name of Åland in Old Norse was Ahvaland, which means “land of water. I am drawn to water as well, it has a soothing and balancing effect, whether you’re in it or simply gazing at it.
I don’t get sick very often, but my current well-being while writing doesn’t feel as “beautiful” as the nature around here. The day before coming here, I got sick, and in the evening, I had a fever and couldn’t do anything but rest. When I woke up in the morning, the fever was gone, but I still felt weak. I decided to go to the ferry in the evening anyway because I had been looking forward to this short vacation, and I needed it.
Lately, there has been so much stress, and I’ve had very little time for myself. I feel like a squirrel on a wheel, and I’m running low on energy. I’ve been focused on personal trainer training. I’ve just completed the training part, and now I’m preparing for exams and working on my final project. Not that I don’t enjoy this journey. I am very pleased that I embarked on this journey. But because, in addition to this, I have work and other responsibilities in my life, this journey has been challenging.
Lately, I’ve been feeling tired and lacking energy. Not to mention, I’ve been missing out on sleep hours. I also pushed myself with running and gym workouts in between, and on top of that, there’s the stress from school. And it didn’t take much more for my body to say no, enough now. Intense activity leads to stress in the body, the organism starts producing stress hormones and goes into “fight mode.” If we don’t relax, the body wears out its systems by constantly being in “fight mode.” That’s what happened to me,my body just got exhausted. Fortunately, I had it timed so well. It’s like my body knew when it was time to put the system on “pause.”
Why am I writing all of this? Because I’ve come to realize that I’ve wanted to be extremely diligent and have ignored the signs my body has been giving me. I should have already taken it easier and more calmly with my workouts when I first felt signs of fatigue. I should have also focused more on getting better quality sleep. Lately, my bedtime has been pushed to a later time. Due to a lack of time, I haven’t always eaten the best either. And in addition, I’m a chronic overthinker and tend to stress excessively. I tried using workouts to alleviate my stress, but when the body doesn’t get enough rest and fuel, it creates a vicious cycle. Hindsight is, of course, the greatest wisdom of all. But we do learn from our mistakes.
Constant stress is not good. Stress should occur in waves, but it becomes a problem when that wave becomes very high or even constant – without ups and downs. Constant stress has a strong impact on your athletic performance. Your body doesn’t utilize nutrients as efficiently as it does in normal circumstances, which means you can’t burn your fuel optimally, lowering your physical performance.
In addition to nutrient absorption, physical recovery and high-quality sleep also play a significant role in sports. Since cortisol is also involved in regulating sleep cycles, your sleep is usually disrupted, which also affects your recovery. This often leads to a subtle vicious cycle where you may become even more stressed due to fatigue, and this cycle repeats day after day, causing not only fatigue but also physical problems.
Now, I am here in the midst of the islands, trying to rest and recharge my batteries. I’m filling up with the clean sea air and the beautiful nature here. Nature has a significant impact on our health, both mental and physical. Studies have found that physical activity in nature lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Additionally, the sympathetic nervous system (a part of the human nervous system that activates in fight-or-flight situations) activity, blood pressure, and heart rate decreased. The results also showed improved mood and reduced anxiety.
Right now, I’m trying to focus on completing the personal trainer training and gradually easing up on my own workouts. I definitely won’t give up on workouts because sports and physical activity are crucial for stress relief, but I’m doing it smarter and paying attention to my body. I’m taking more time for myself and making sure my body gets the recovery it needs.