Four Ways To Improve Stress Tolerance

Stress tolerance is a word that is used all the time in both business and sport.

What is the definition of tolerance?

The definition of tolerance is:

“The ability to deal with something unpleasant or annoying, or to continue existing despite bad or difficult conditions.”

So, from this, we can see that tolerance is so important in life. We come across difficult situations every day. Stress is good for us, it causes us to adapt.

Mental Stress

Let’s start with mental stress.

So what happens when we apply too much mental stress to the human body?

Emotional reactions: we can become short with people.
Motivational reactions: we become demotivated or highly motivated.
Cognitive changes: brain fog, too much information to take on board.
Sleep disturbances: an inability to switch off before sleeping, and when waking between sleep cycles, we start to think about things.
Depression or anxiety.
Anger, irritability, or restlessness.
Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused.
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Racing thoughts or constant worry.
Problems with your memory or concentration.
Making bad decisions.

Physical Stress

And now on to physical stress.

So what happens when we apply too much physical stress to the human body?

Reduced energy.
Muscle soreness.
Reduced range of movement.
Increased rest heart rate.
Low HRV: we have a reduced variably to heartbeats.
Frequent colds and infections.
Reduced sleep: we are tried, but we cannot sleep.

How can we go about improving stress tolerance?

So, as most people say, all models are both useful and useless — the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) by Selye. GAS is a model that has been used in sports science for years to discuss what happens when you apply a stimulus to the body, according to Selye. GAS is broken down into three stages (alarm, resistance, exhaustion), and these three stages are believed to occur in response to any damaging stimulus.

As you can see, both prolonged and large amounts of stress above the adaptation threshold can lead to the signs and symptoms of stress disorders such as unexplained underperformance syndrome (UPS).

So with both mental or physical stress, there needs to be controlled stress applied and a time period to allow for recovery.

Let’s look at mental stress.

What makes you feel uncomfortable? Therefore what is the smallest amount that you can do?

Look at the work of James Clear and his idea of the power of tiny gains – 1% improvements add up to massive improvements over time. I love Clear’s work, check out his website here.

So sit down and think about things that make you feel uncomfortable. How can you break them down?

Get better at recovering. Build-in time during the day and week – develop stress release practices, like BREATHING, mindfulness or journaling.

And now physical stress.

People might think that improving physical stress tolerance is easier.

Yes and no.

Yes, it’s easy to create stress, but it is hard to understand the amount needed and the timing of the application.

Again, it comes back to small increases in volume and intensity of training.

This is the discussion about the idea of periodisation and the importance of breaking down training into blocks. You can see in the image a simple periodisation model of four different phases.


Take a look at the full video to hear about these ideas and points more in-depth.

  1. Planning and taking small steps.
  2. Focus on the process.
  3. Get outside of your comfort zone.
  4. Enjoy stress.

I would love to hear about and see your stress tolerance work.

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Enjoy your stress and training.


Director and Founder