Whether it’s work, bills, school, or family problems, everyone experiences stress or anxiety in some form. Aside from causing us to have an unhealthy meal at the end of a hard day or a restless night's sleep, in what ways do stress and anxiety affect our body physically?
To name a few, muscles become tense, heart rate and blood pressure can increase, and cortisol levels can skyrocket. Though cortisol helps the body use sugar and fat for energy, if cortisol levels remain high, it can be a sign of stress and anxiety taking over the body, ultimately leading to negative outcomes.
Individuals who were anxious before competition had a 5x higher risk of suffering injury during the competition, while endurance athletes had a 10x greater risk of injury or illness (1). Athletes with anxiety/anxiety symptoms during the preseason of their sport had an increased risk of injuries during the season (2). Lastly and perhaps most importantly, high stress levels reduce strength gains after training (3). If stress and anxiety can affect athletes so negatively, it can do the same to non-athletes.
How can you lower those stress levels or try to calm the anxiety you’re facing? Some examples are listed below.
Exercise - Cortisol is lowered by exercise, which can, in turn, allow for better sleep.
Laugh – help those muscles relax and release oxytocin.
Lists - Make lists of things stressing you out (to do lists, etc.) and knock them out rather than procrastinating. Procrastination will only increase stress and anxiety, countering any other positive changes you may have made.
Massage - This speaks for itself. Pay the money, increase the blood flow to the muscles, listen to soft music and think about nothing.
Meditation - During meditation, you can focus on deep breathing, aka diaphragmatic breathing, allowing muscles to relax and lungs to fully inflate and deflate.
Physical contact - Contact increases the release of oxytocin and lowers cortisol levels. In response, blood pressure and heart rate tend to lower. Cuddling, kissing, holding hands, and those nights when the kids aren’t home can all help relieve stress.
Yoga - Whether hatha, vinyasa, or hot, yoga can help those muscles relax, those breaths to remain steady, and the mind to clear out faster than milk and eggs before a snowstorm.
1 - https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/03/05/elite-athletes-anxiety-over-illness-ups-risk-of-injury-in-competition/117188.html
2 - Li, H., Moreland, J., Peek-Asa, C., & Yang, J. (2017). Preseason anxiety and depressive symptoms and prospective injury risk in collegiate athletes. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 45(9), 2148-2155.
3 – Bartholomew, J., Stults-Kolehmainen, M., Elrod, C., & Todd, J. (2008). Strength gains after resistance training: the effect of stressful, negative life events. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(4), 1215-1221.