By Sindy Hassig, MSPT
The physiological impact of stress is universally accepted as affecting physical and mental health. Dr. Hans Selye, a pioneering endocrinologist, is one of the earliest researchers in this area and reported on the positive and negative effects of stress. He used the term “eustress” for events that are positive and challenge us to adapt to stressors, thus increasing our coping mechanisms. “Distress” is a negative response to stressors increasing the body’s susceptibility to disorders. He is considered the first scientist to identify nonspecific signs and symptoms of illness as responses to stressful situations.
Chronic Stress is Detrimental
Duration of stress is a significant factor. The immune system may be strengthened by short-term stress, but chronic stress is detrimental. Many physical illnesses have a significant psychological component that is impacted by stress. Therapy aimed at minimizing stressful psychological interactions can improve asthma in children. Coronary heart disease is strongly influenced by psychological stress. The incidence of myocardial infarctions is affected by financial, workplace, and home life stresses, and major life events. Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, may be negatively impacted by stress. The stress response has a more significant relationship to psychiatric illness than to physical conditions, with the greatest associations to neurosis, depression, and schizophrenia.
Stress is a Part of Everyday Life
Stress is a part of everyday life that we all must deal with personally and professionally. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to engage in regular physical exercise. The need for this is particularly important during this time of worldwide crisis with the coronavirus pandemic easing, but still, ever-present. A daily exercise practice is a wonderful way to relieve stress and clear your mind along with all the physical benefits such as lowering your blood pressure and helping with weight control and many others.
Your Physical Therapist Can Help
Walking is so often recommended, but may not be the answer for everyone, especially if you have underlying joint and muscle issues which make it painful. There are so many ways to get regular exercise which suits your body and is enjoyable. Not sure where to begin? Your physical therapist can help you get started on your way to enjoying the benefits of regular exercise. Make an appointment to have your achy joint or sore muscle examined and if necessary treated so that together you can make a plan that works for you.
If you have questions about how physical therapy may help you or someone you care about, please don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider or local physical therapist for information.
You can learn more about the VNA Outpatient Therapy clinic by visiting us on the web at www.vermontvisitingnurses.org or calling 802.362.6509.