Stressed Out? – Four Pines Physical Therapy
Dr. V. Norene Christensen Health Tips

"Regular Health Tips From Dr. V. Norene Christensen..."

Use the Form Below to Get Them All Sent to You for FREE

Stressed Out?

Chronic Stress

Back to School, exams, work drama, upcoming holidays—they can all get us stressed out. And what’s worse than just being stressed? It can affect your recovery or make you prone to injury. ​​​​​​​

Acute bouts of stress are actually good for the body; the hormones released in response to fright, illness, trauma, etc. increase blood sugar levels to help combat these stressors. But chronic stress can have very negative impacts on our bodies. “Weak links” in our tissues feel the effects of chronic stress first, making us susceptible to injury or re-injury.

Brain

When we come into contact with stressors, a structure in our brains called the hypothalamus activates pathways that release two main hormones: cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). In the short term, both cortisol and epinephrine cause more glucose to enter the bloodstream. Epinephrine also increases heart rate and blood pressure so that the larger amounts of glucose can reach our tissues faster. This means we have more energy to fight or flee our stressors. That’s good!

However…if we are constantly exposed to high levels of stress from work, school, relationships, family, or life in general, then our bodies’ natural stress response can actually have a damaging result. The effects of epinephrine make it easy to see the relationship between stress and cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. high blood pressure), but cortisol can also cause undesirable changes in our bodies.

When we are stressed, our bodies consume more energy, and cortisol helps find sources of glucose to keep us energized. Cortisol hastens the breakdown of proteins into glucose, allowing blood sugar levels to rise. Unfortunately, when under chronic stress, our bodies can run out of excess proteins to metabolize, and cortisol turns to our muscles for protein. Our “weak links,” such as surgery sites or recovered injuries, tend to feel these effects first, giving us aches or pains.

So what can we do about it? It’s simple: reduce your stress levels. While it is difficult to remove nagging stresses from our lives entirely, there are plenty of little things we can to do mitigate stress:

  • Spend more time with the people you love and/or doing things you enjoy. Solitude can increase our cortisol levels by 50%.
  • Plan ahead to meet deadlines more efficiently. Use a calendar or set alerts to keep you on track. Our bodies love routines, and going to bed and getting up at the same time daily is an easy way to kick-start your daily routines!
  • Practice meditation or other calming activities. A few minutes per day of meditation can work wonders! Cortisol is not produced during deep breathing, when the body is calm, and so clearing your mind and taking deep breaths is a great activity! If you’re like us and you need to move your body, then try Yoga, Tai Chi or nature walks. When you walk try to listen for 3 sounds at any given time. This helps calm the monkey brain that keeps ticking away at thoughts, worries, to-do lists and more.

So if you’re feeling like stress has got you down, try out these tricks and see what works for you!

For more information, ask your PT or you can follow this link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

Kaysha Heck

Kaysha Heck

Kaysha is a native of Washington State where she spent the majority of her time either outside or in the gym training as a high level competitive gymnast. She went on to compete collegiately for Seattle Pacific University where she earned both academic and athletic honors. She completed her physical therapy education at Regis University in Denver, CO before pursuing Residency Training in Sports Physical Therapy at the University of Florida. Even after her competitive career was over she has remained involved in the sport of gymnastics motivating, coaching, researching, and working to educate athletes, coaches, parents, and providers. Kaysha is an outdoor enthusiast and enjoys being challenged by new athletic endeavors.
Kaysha Heck

Latest posts by Kaysha Heck (see all)

Scroll Up
Share This