I thought I’d continue our focus on stress by expanding on our definition of it. In yesterday’s post we discussed what you’d find in the dictionary if you looked it up, and we found that stress, in its simplified form, is pressure, strain or force.
So let’s look at some different types of stress that are commonly encountered in everyday life; emotional, mental and physical. We’ll cover emotional and mental stress over the next two days, and today we’ll look at physical stress and what it entails.
If we consider our earlier definition of “stress” being pressure, strain or force, and “physical” as being about the human body (since we’re talking about stress and its impact on humans), it seems to make logical sense that physical stress is anything that places strain, force or pressure on the human body.
So what kinds of things in our lives place strain, force or pressure on the body?
- Movement (bending, stretching, twisting, running, jumping, and so on)
- Sex (doing it, thinking about it, and even not doing it)
- Sleep deprivation or disruption (such as from nightmares or insomnia)
- Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
- Sitting for long periods
- Babysitting/child care
- Lifting weights
- Lack of water
- Shift work (which messes with your natural circadian rhythms)
- Eating food
- Processed foods
- Loud noises and bright lights
- Animal bites
- Gravity (i.e., the force holding us on the earth)
- Carrying extra fat
- Standing in one place
- Adventure sports
- Sports in general
- Working out
- Temperature (either hot or cold)
- Being frightened/startled
- Experiencing any kind of emotion (all emotions have a physical component)
- Ingesting addictive substances (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc)
- Menopause/puberty (which cause some pretty major hormone fluctuations)
- Crying, laughing, screaming, yelling, talking, singing
- Growing (watch any child and you’ll know that growing takes a lot of energy!)
- Coughing, sneezing
Wow, look at that list! It seems pretty long, and I’m sure if you really thought about it, you could add a lot more to it!
Some of the things on this list are pretty self-explanatory. It’s fairly obvious that illness or injury places stress on our bodies, right? But there are other things that may need a little explanation. They seem like they’re positive things, and we all know that “positive” stuff is supposed to be good for us. Right?
Well of course positive things are good for us.
Let’s take movement and exercise, for example. Our bodies are designed to move. We are meant to run, jump, twist, turn, lift weights, play sports, and so on. We thrive when we move. We gain fitness, endurance and stamina. We become faster and stronger. And we can do more, for longer. All positive things.
What most people don’t realise, however, is that movement is inflammatory. Intense exercise releases cortisol into the blood stream. A primary stress hormone, it is one of the most destructive natural substances to the human body. It’s quite ironic that it’s also produced by the body. If it remains unmanaged, cortisol can have some seriously disastrous impacts. We’ll discuss this more in future posts throughout the month, but for now the main concept we need to understand is that sometimes, exercise can be harmful. Particularly if it is intense and for long periods of time.
Any fitness expert or personal trainer will tell you that when you place strain on your body by exercising you need to give it rest time to repair itself. It’s during this recovery time that the body makes gains in fitness, stamina and endurance. But if you push the body too long, too far, too fast, and don’t allow it to repair, it will end up damaged in some way.
And this is the point for all types of stress, regardless of the cause. Whether it’s sex, cleaning, food or laughter, recovery time is essential for managing stress.
Recovery and repair are imperative for wellness.