Stress. Six little letters is all it takes to make a word so full of meaning that few of us really know how to get to the bottom of it. Stress: is it that feeling you get when a deadline is looming, or is it what we feel when the chicken roast burns, the movie didn’t record, or we forgot to pick our mother-in-law up from the airport? Possibly, but could it be that it’s more than that? What if you haven’t been able to pay your mortgage for a few months, if a family member has been diagnosed with an illness, or if you simply can’t keep up with the pace at work? What if you don’t know how to cope anymore? Stress is all this and, perhaps, a whole lot more. In this blog, we’re talking about all things stress-related: what it is, what it can be, how it ultimately affects not only your mental health, but your physical health as well, and, finally, what you can do about it. Keep reading, because even if you think you don’t have stress, that ache in your lower back might very well be saying something completely different.
Stress takes a toll on us emotionally; it can lead to depression, anxiety disorders, mood-swings, and various other psychological troubles if left untreated. In fact, the emotional effects of stress are so vast that they need an entire blog post of their own. For that reason, this month’s post will focus on the physical effects of stress rather than its mental counterpart.
For the most part, people assume that stress is relegated to the mind: a large amount of stress results in mental strain. Of course, this is true. But the effects of stress are even further reaching than that. Demanding, prolonged, adverse situations cause individuals to experience stress, that is, strain placed on the mind, heart, and body. As the mind becomes increasingly agitated and anxious, the body responds in like. Muscles begin to tense up, posture suffers, sleep is hard to come by, and the overall function of the body declines.
It’s important to note that a knee-injury, for example, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily stressed. Nor does backache or headaches. In fact, stress is notorious for affecting a vast majority of areas around your body, rather than one single one. In other words, stress causes a cumulative worsening of symptoms throughout the entire body. Suffering from stress may cause a few, or all, of the following:
Of course, as one experiences fatigue, so too the stress mounts, thereby worsening the intensity of an already vicious circle. It is not an understatement to say that “stress kills”, as a prolonged period of stress can lead not only to a mental breakdown, but to the deterioration of one’s physical body, so much so that mobility and comfort may be lost. Once again, this will further increase stress.
It’s obvious, then, that recognizing the ways in which stress is entering your life and manifesting in your body is absolutely imperative. If stressed is picked-up on early, then the effects can be safely and permanently mitigated: this will ensure that you remain mobile, pain-free, and a lot happier than if you were living with that stress on a daily basis. A stress-free life is interconnected with health, mental peace, and a pain-free life. De-stressing is perhaps the most important thing you can do, right now.
So, stress is dangerous, yes, but it is possible to cope with it in healthy, sustainable ways. It’s not only possible, though, it’s an absolute necessity. Allowing stress to build is perhaps one of the leading causes of serious injury, both mentally and physically. We really don’t want you to get to that point. So, why not try the following activities in order to cope with any possible stress you’re under:
Readjusting your breathing in order to allow more oxygen to enter your bloodstream is vital in balancing out the stress in your life. By practicing tried-and-tested breathing techniques, stress will not be given the opportunity to wreak havoc on either your physical or mental self.
There’s one very good reason essential oils have been around for thousands of years… they work! Some essential oils are able to induce relaxation, and thus using them in your bath, in lotions, in burners, or even just as something to sniff on occasion, is a really useful way of inviting a sense of calm into your life. Remember, as the mind unwinds, so too your body will be open to healing.
The physical effects of stress need to be tackled, too. As stress builds, so too the body may shut down. Remember, therefore, to pay attention to areas of the body that feel less mobile or painful than before. Apply heat or ice to these areas in order to alleviate the discomfort. Thereafter, seek proper treatment from a physical therapist.
Prolonged periods of stress can oftentimes cause physical pain. Backache, headaches, and neck pain should never be ignored: visit a hands-on physical therapist for the best, safest, most effective way of both treating the physical pain and for tips on how to prevent its resurgence. A physical therapist will not only diagnose the root-cause of the problem and eradicate the pain, but will give you tailor-made exercises so that you can continue your pain-free life outside of the clinic. Once you treat the pain, the mental healing can begin.
At the end of the day, stress is truly detrimental to one’s heath, physical well-being, and state of mind. It can rob us of our joy, hobbies, family-time, and active lifestyles. Listen to your body and make time to de-stress. Knowing if you’re stressed it absolutely essential in staving off physical pain and mental anguish. If you’re unsure why you’re in pain, you’re worried about your physical health, or you just need some advice about stress-related injuries, then we invite you to contact us, today. No one should live with stress or stress-related pain: let us help you, right now.
Dr. Jack Wong
Leading Physical Therapist In The Kingwood Area