VOLUME 3: Stress
March 5, 2021
STRESSED OUT? KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Both good and bad. The key to managing it rests in our ability to understand that living healthy is a process. Purpose and routine are paramount in dealing with the ill effects of negative stimuli. Practicing good nutrition, sleep, exercise, and social interaction are key!
In this edition, Andrew gives an informative piece on good and bad stress and their effects on healthy living. Chris looks at the relationship between stress and our food choices. Matt discusses the benefits of Meditation. And Jimmy explores the benefits of exercising and rehabilitating in a group setting.
Wishing you peace, prosperity, and less stress in the year to come!
Good Stress // Bad Stress by Andrew McInnis
Did you know that there are two different kinds of stress? Distress and Eustress. Often, stress gets the bad reputation for being awful for our health and a constant source of problems in our lives. It’s always looming and can be linked to high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and even muscle tightness and spasms. This is distress.
Distress gives us the feeling of being overwhelmed, physically and emotionally drained and powerless to tackle the issues in our lives. Anxiety, depression, and poor performance often follow. So enough of that nonsense. Let go of your Distress and embrace your Eustress!
Eustress is the feel-good stress, the stress that makes you feel motivated, challenged to be a better person, and builds muscle. This stress promotes something inside you that makes you crave more and release the “feel-good” hormones in our body. Eustress can be broken down into three categories: Emotional Eustress, Psychological Eustress, and Physical Eustress.
Emotional eustress feels you with the feeling of contentment, achievement, and motivation. You feel like you’ve accomplished your goals, and nothing can stop you!
Psychological eustress promotes feelings of self-fulfillment, autonomy, self- empowerment, and is the kind of stress that grows you personally and makes you who you are.
The last but most relevant to physical therapy, is physical eustress. This is the stress applied through weight bearing while walking, to building muscle after an ACL surgery, to back squatting 200 pounds with a barbell. Our bones and muscles were made to adapt to the stimuli that we provide to them. Quite simple the physical eustress we apply to our bodies helps us build muscle, activate nerves, and restore our correct movement patterns.
Our goal as a Physical Therapist, teacher, motivator, and your friend is to provide your body with the appropriate amount of eustress to help you move better, feel better and live better. Do not be afraid to ask any of our Physical therapists or motion specialists about how you can reduce bad stress and add healthy doses of good stress to your lifestyle!
All the best, Andrew.
Stress and Food: Related? by Chris Brandt
Stress, simply put, is an emotional response to an external stimulus. Whether it is a new job, family issues, pain, or even just getting out of routine, people react to stressful situations differently. An important, and sometimes overlooked issue, is how stress can trigger dietary changes which may contribute and perpetuate many health problems.
In the short term, stress can lead to decreased appetite due to hormones. But if stress continues, the adrenal glands will release cortisol and as a result can increase appetite. And, more often than not, cortisol increases our cravings for “comfort foods” high in fat and sugar.
An easy way to reduce stressful eating is to keep healthy food choices readily available. Important nutrients for stress-reduction include Vitamin C (oranges and citrus), complex carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables), and Magnesium (spinach, leafy greens, soybeans).
Additionally, meal planning can help to reduce a stress response before it begins! We all have very busy schedules, typically leading to more stress. Setting aside time on Sunday to meal prep for the week or even creating a menu and shopping ahead of time can be helpful. Better planning will reduce the frequency of unhealthy take-out/fast food options, which is always beneficial.
Avoid certain foods and substances. High levels of caffeine (coffee, soft drinks, tea) contribute to insomnia and nervousness. Processed and sugary foods, result in extreme blood sugar changes and increase food cravings. And alcohol, although calming in the short term, can increase stress through nervousness, sleep problems, and skin irritation.
Changing eating habits alone will not cure stress. Try to increase time with friends, exercise more, and add a meditation or mindfulness practice to your routine. In doing so, you will experience less stress and be well on your way to moving, feeling and living better!
To Your Health!
Meditation IS Motion by Matt Smith
Life can be stressful, and stress can have serious repercussions on both our physical health as well as our mental health. At some point in time, many of us will have experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed, upset, or as if everything around you came crashing down. Handling difficult moments is tough. Sometimes, simply taking time to pause and rest your mind can be enough to feel better in the moment. An effective technique to promote calmness and diminish stressful events is meditation.
Meditation has become one of the more popular ways to relieve stress among people throughout all walks of life. This “age-old” practice can be used in several important ways including: 1) It can be a part of your daily routine and help build resilience to stress. 2) It can be a technique you use to feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. 3) It can be a quick-fix stress reliever to help you reverse your body’s stress response and physically relax.
Meditation is often thought of as the “oooom!” exercise with weird “sounds” which can turn the typical person away from practice. This is a misconception and is more in align with the ancient practices of meditation that may involve a spiritual experience. With more modern approaches to meditation, everyone can find an approach that can be both enjoyable and beneficial. Some common types include: Focused Attention, Body Scan, Noting, Visualization, Loving Kindness, Skillful Compassion, Resting Awareness, and Reflection.
Meditation usually involves sitting in a relaxed position and clearing your mind of all things going on around you. This includes what you are currently thinking about past, present, and/or future. It is a way to focus your mind on one thought and clearing it of all others including worries, doubts, and tasks. By learning to calm your body and mind, physical and emotional stress has an opportunity to “melt away”. This ultimately leaves you feeling better, refreshed, and ready to face the challenges of your day with a healthy attitude. It is generally necessary to have at least 5-20 minutes of distraction-free meditation to receive health benefits from practice.
Meditation has also been scientifically proven to help alleviate stress after just 8 weeks of regular practice. Numerous studies have shown that meditation is an effective stress management tool, ultimately reprogramming the brain with more capacity to manage stress. By training the mind to be more open and less reactive, we are better able to cope when life’s stressors start accumulating.
We need to remember that stress has a physical effect on us. Stress triggers the autonomic nervous system to increase the release of epinephrine and cortisol. The release of too much epinephrine can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes while release of too much cortisol can increase blood sugar levels and constrict blood vessels.
Meditation also teaches us to become the observers of certain mental patterns and become less physically affected by them. When we meditate, we are taking the time to be curious about what we are thinking and feeling in the moment. By reframing our experience, we can dramatically alter how we view and relate to stress. Reframing the mind and how we react to certain stressors and situations only helps our mental and physical health into the future. Meditation allows us this opportunity to “zoom out” and take a step back to view how our minds handle and perceive stress.
Do not let this stress slowly kill you! Techniques are easy to learn and take a minimal amount of time throughout the day to perform. Meditation can lead to a healthy mental and physical lifestyle and a reason why we said that “Meditation IS Motion”. Research consistently shows that those who practice meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that allow them to recover from stressful situations more easily. They also experience less stress from challenges they face in their everyday lives. Meditation also leads to multiple health benefits including improved blood pressure, better immune function, and overall aging at a slower rate. Meditation keeps your body and mind at peak performance and can be a lifesaver and life-changer throughout your day.
It Takes a Village by James Dunn
Dealing with an injury, a disability, or a new diagnosis can be a particularly stressful time. Patients often scour the internet looking for the testimonies of those who have gone through a similar plight, in order to feel some sense of community in their new circumstance. Healing together helps reduce the stress of the individual, who often just wants to feel that they aren’t alone. Studies have looked at this phenomenon as it relates to exercise and the results are astounding. One study found that in college-aged people, exercising in a small group provided a 26% reduction in overall reported stress levels as compared to exercising alone. Another study looked at a population of knee replacement patients found that exercising in a group in the days after their surgery led to reduced pain levels and a reduced overall length of stay in the hospital as compared to exercising alone. If you need some support achieving your wellness goals, or recovering from and injury, come see us.
James Dunn PT, DPT
EW Motion Therapy