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Thread: Is there a connection between physical and psychological stress? page

  1. #1
    NowhereMan's Avatar
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    Is there a connection between physical and psychological stress?

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    So, this is something I've been turning over and over in my head and can't seem to grasp. I need help making sense of it. My presentation of this idea may not be particularly clear, given my limited understanding but please bear with me.

    Anxiety and depression have been problems for me for a few years now and I've only recently sought help. Anxiety is, by definition, a constant source of psychological stress. I'm constantly working mentally and can't really relax around most people. Then, when I don't have to worry about people, I just shut down because I'm mentally exhausted.

    I've only recently started exercising as well, recent being the past 2 years. I've lifted pretty regularly and in the past few months added some conditioning work. My exercise routine is physically stressful and I seem to burn out pretty easily, despite eating well, sleeping well, and just taking good care of myself in general (except mentally, I'm working on this).

    I'm starting to think the two could be related. I don't know much about the body's response to stress so this may make no sense at all. If my body is always coping with psychological stress could that mean it has fewer resources to devote to physical stress? I don't know what "resources" I'm referring to, but hopefully the general idea is clear. So, for those more enlightened than myself, is there anything to this? Any good resources on stress of either kind that you can direct me to?

  2. #2
    Owly's Avatar
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    The stress response is physiological whether it's physical or emotional stress. Our minds are part of our bodies, so psychological stress elicits a hormonal response. Basically, some of the same pathways get stressed, and you get things like elevated cortisol.
    “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

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  3. #3
    NZ primal Gwamma's Avatar
    NZ primal Gwamma is online now Senior Member
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    I have never been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, however I have a few family members who suffer severly from both conditions. And yes physical and physcological stress, I believe are related.
    Are you on medication ? Sometimes if our symptoms are severe enough it is prudent to take medication to get over that wee blip in our life, until we can carry on without the meds. However sometimes people can get through without. I am sure the medical professional that you are seeing will recognise this and prescribe accordingly, or not.
    Exersize should make you feel better, and over 2 years you should have noticed this. Do you get angry ? jealous? tearful ?- often ? if so sometimes whacking a ball helps, ie squash, tennis, swingball. Maybe you need to change your form of exersize? However if you are just low and need a boost, make yourself get out in the sunshine and walk. Yes you will be tired at first, but after a week or two you will notice some small changes.
    I have just started my DH on magnesium, hoping that this might settle the jiggling in his sleep (anxiety). It will be interesting to see how he gets on with this one. I cannot get him on board with the primal way of life thou, so I am not going to encourage him to go off his meds any time soon.
    However if we get to that point, I will be actively looking at more natural ways to help him cope without the meds.
    Are you incorporating, into your daily routine, something that you really enjoy, and find relaxing ????
    When you say that you are constantly working mentally - what do you mean? Are you in front of the computer or TV too late at night ? One of our children cannot watch TV, or do stuff on the computer into the evening because it stimulates her brain. So we try and encourage her to do a quiet activity for an hour or two before bed. What time do you eat at night ? This can also be quite stimulating. Sometimes people need to do the old hanky spanky thing in the morning rather than at night, because of the "stimulating " factor. And also having a bath or spa at night can get the blood going, so it might not be such a great idea for you ?????
    Sorry too many questions, but good luck and I will be interested to hear how you get on

    G
    "never let the truth get in the way of a good story "

    ...small steps....

  4. #4
    Uncephalized's Avatar
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    In a word: yes. In two words: yes, absolutely.

    Psychological stress elevates adrenaline and cortisol. These are catabolic hormones. Catabolism is the process of breaking down your body's stored tissues and nutrients to provide energy or meet structural needs. Basically, catabolic hormones will down-regulate or shut down your body's growth and repair mechanisms in favor of providing for short-term needs. As long as you are stressed, it is difficult for your body to grow and repair tissue, which is what it needs to do in order to heal from injuries, increase muscle mass, recover from workouts, etc. But it's very easy for the body to break down these tissues in this kind of hormonal environment. The only thing the body is good at growing when under the influence of a lot of cortisol is visceral abdominal fat. Don't ask me why; maybe nature just hates us.

    Anabolism is the opposite of catabolism--insulin, testosterone, HGH and IGF are examples of anabolic hormones. During times of stress you don't release as much of these.

    In a healthy person who isn't gaining or losing weight, these two are in balance and you grow as much new tissue as you break down--both states are good and necessary as long as you don't get too much of either one. In this case, when you work out, you are subjected to a short duration of acute stress while working out. During this time catabolic processes take over to provide the energy you need to meet the physical challenge. When you're done and you've had time to rest for a bit, and especially if you eat a bunch of food and go to sleep (anabolism requires additional energy and building blocks in the form of food), you go back into an anabolic state to fix the tissue damage and replenish energy stores. If you've supplied enough food, then your body can also lay down some additional muscle tissue in response to the signals you sent by working out, which tell the muscles they need to get bigger and stronger to handle the stress you put them under.

    If you have an unhealthy level of psychological stress, your body is unable to turn off the catabolic hormones--because it thinks you're being chased by a tiger or charged by a rhinoceros, all the time. It can't distinguish between that kind of real physical danger and the pseudo-danger of having to live paycheck to paycheck or being yelled at by your boss while working 80-hour weeks. You can still store abdominal fat but you'll have a really hard time growing lean tissue. Your digestion will slow down and your metabolism will drop over time. This will make it hard to exercise and even harder to recover from exercise. You'll only be able to sleep when you're too exhausted to function, and it will be poorer-quality sleep that promotes less healing and recovery than it should. All of these problems of course will make you feel crappier and more stressed, and send you further down the rabbit hole.

    I highly recommend reading Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and/or watching "Stress: Portrait of a Killer" (which also features Sapolsky, who is a leading expert on stress in primates), if you're interested in this stuff.

    EDIT: And yes, you do have a finite amount of resources to cope with stress, and psychological and physical stresses both take resources out of the same "bank accounts" in your body, so if you have too much of one there is less left over to deal with the other. You've got the right idea.
    Today I will: Eat food, not poison. Plan for success, not settle for failure. Live my real life, not a virtual one. Move and grow, not sit and die.

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  5. #5
    NowhereMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncephalized View Post
    In a word: yes. In two words: yes, absolutely.

    Psychological stress elevates adrenaline and cortisol. These are catabolic hormones. Catabolism is the process of breaking down your body's stored tissues and nutrients to provide energy or meet structural needs. Basically, catabolic hormones will down-regulate or shut down your body's growth and repair mechanisms in favor of providing for short-term needs. As long as you are stressed, it is difficult for your body to grow and repair tissue, which is what it needs to do in order to heal from injuries, increase muscle mass, recover from workouts, etc. But it's very easy for the body to break down these tissues in this kind of hormonal environment. The only thing the body is good at growing when under the influence of a lot of cortisol is visceral abdominal fat. Don't ask me why; maybe nature just hates us.

    Anabolism is the opposite of catabolism--insulin, testosterone, HGH and IGF are examples of anabolic hormones. During times of stress you don't release as much of these.

    In a healthy person who isn't gaining or losing weight, these two are in balance and you grow as much new tissue as you break down--both states are good and necessary as long as you don't get too much of either one. In this case, when you work out, you are subjected to a short duration of acute stress while working out. During this time catabolic processes take over to provide the energy you need to meet the physical challenge. When you're done and you've had time to rest for a bit, and especially if you eat a bunch of food and go to sleep (anabolism requires additional energy and building blocks in the form of food), you go back into an anabolic state to fix the tissue damage and replenish energy stores. If you've supplied enough food, then your body can also lay down some additional muscle tissue in response to the signals you sent by working out, which tell the muscles they need to get bigger and stronger to handle the stress you put them under.

    If you have an unhealthy level of psychological stress, your body is unable to turn off the catabolic hormones--because it thinks you're being chased by a tiger or charged by a rhinoceros, all the time. It can't distinguish between that kind of real physical danger and the pseudo-danger of having to live paycheck to paycheck or being yelled at by your boss while working 80-hour weeks. You can still store abdominal fat but you'll have a really hard time growing lean tissue. Your digestion will slow down and your metabolism will drop over time. This will make it hard to exercise and even harder to recover from exercise. You'll only be able to sleep when you're too exhausted to function, and it will be poorer-quality sleep that promotes less healing and recovery than it should. All of these problems of course will make you feel crappier and more stressed, and send you further down the rabbit hole.

    I highly recommend reading Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and/or watching "Stress: Portrait of a Killer" (which also features Sapolsky, who is a leading expert on stress in primates), if you're interested in this stuff.

    EDIT: And yes, you do have a finite amount of resources to cope with stress, and psychological and physical stresses both take resources out of the same "bank accounts" in your body, so if you have too much of one there is less left over to deal with the other. You've got the right idea.
    Thanks a bunch, this is exactly what I was looking for. Watching the documentary right now, book is in the mail.

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