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.
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:
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