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Coping with Physical Stress


With the stresses of daily life progressively increasing each day, it is no wonder that we are finding stress growing difficult to manage. Although we are readily equipped with the ability to deal with normal stresses of the day we are sometimes encountered by a stressful situation that is overwhelming. An occurrence that can better be characterized as creating distress.

Distress is typically our reaction to a stressful situation that is overwhelming or lasting a prolonged period of time creating an overreaction to the situation. This may be different for everyone in regards to what overwhelms you, and what distresses me. Nonetheless, often times these stresses can manifest themselves physically in the form of pains in specific areas of the body, or throughout the entire body. Stress and distress can additionally be felt via actual physical insult such as an accident, and injury or a surgical procedure.

A poor diet may also place the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system. As a result, the person can be more likely to get infections while reducing the body’s efficiency in healing. A poor diet can mean unhealthy food choices, not eating enough, or not eating on a normal schedule.

Lack of physical activity can put the body in a stressful state as physical activity has many benefits. A regular physical activity program can help decrease stress and depression if it exists. Exercise will not only improve your general health, but it helps to relax tense muscles while also helping you to sleep.

Most experts recommend doing 20 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week. Make time for yourself. Schedule a specific time, type, amount, and level of physical activity for your exercise routine. Increase your chances of success by finding a buddy to exercise with. And make no mistake, you do not have to join a gym if that isn’t your thing, 20 minutes of brisk walking inside or out will do it.

Exercise is valuable because it improves blood flow to your brain, bringing additional sugars and oxygen which may be needed when you are thinking intensely while at the same time removing waste products. Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These give you a feeling of happiness and well-being.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a helpful tool in both relaxation and the management of physical stress and distress. Try expanding your belly when you inhale. This flattens the diaphragm, pulling the lungs downward and increasing the amount of air available to your lungs and body. Pulling your belly in when you exhale causes the diaphragm to plush the air out of your lungs, allowing a more fully exhaled breath. If you focus you will likely to change your breathing patterns.

Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) is a physical technique for relaxing your body when muscles are tense from stress. By voluntarily tensing a group of muscles so that they are as tightly contracted as possible for a few seconds, then relaxing them, you can consciously take control of your tension. Try this in a single area, like your forearm or throughout your whole body. With some practice, you may gain the ability to relax muscles as much as needed without the initial tension. Always be sure to breathe while tightening.

While neck and back pain are among the most common physical manifestations of stress and distress, symptoms can often mimic other causes of pain. These can include structural changes like degenerative disc disease, herniation, arthritis, or traumatic strains like in a motor vehicle accident.

Gentle stretches from side to side, forward, back or turning side to side is advised to reduce tightness and pain throughout the spine. Be sure to move slowly and safely within a limited motion to eliminate overdoing it. Hold your stretches for 10 to 30 seconds each. You should never be in more pain as a result of gentle stretching. If you are, you have overstretched.

Prevention of further exacerbations may be achieved by taking breaks and moving yourself out of a posture which you may regularly hold. Adjust your chairs and desks to maintain the ‘rule of 90’s’. Finally, stretch gently even when not in pain. You may eliminate your pain before even experiencing it.

If you or someone you know suffers from pain due to or resulting in stress, it is ill-advised to begin a new exercise program without consulting first with your physician, physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, physiatrist, dietitian, psychotherapist or other specialist who regularly treats pain or stress related pain. It is important to first get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of stress or pain, as the specific exercises recommended will depend on the cause. Pain, if left untreated, may become a much more serious condition, so be sure to take good care of it immediately.

Tips from the Experts

Tips from the Experts

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