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Physical Stress Can Be Hazardous to Your Health: 3 Steps to Take Back Your Wellness

Physical Stress Can Be Hazardous to Your Health:

3 Steps to Take Back Your Wellness

by Dr. Bill Rawls | Posted May 26, 2017

In my first book, The Vital Plan, I discussed the seven basic functions of disease — oxidative stress, toxins and allergens, malnutrition, emotional stress, physical stress, microbes, and radiation. Today, I’ll be expanding on physical stress, how it affects our day-to-day lives, and how to take control of its effect on your life.


We’re all very well acquainted with mental or emotional stress — be it work-related or otherwise. As a society, we understand that too much mental stress can lead to health problems down the road. Acknowledging that problem is vastly important, but we need to start seeing physical stress with the same concern.

Physical stress, when your body wears down over time, can lead to similar consequences as compared to emotional stress. When you sustain an injury, for example, your body’s resources all flock to the scene to attempt damage control. If you have another condition taking up those resources, it can have a negative effect on the healing process and usher more problems into an already compromised situation.

Causes of Physical Stress

Aging

The daily grinding down of bones, joints, and teeth is unavoidable — to a certain extent. Physical stress, when boiled down, simply means basic wear and tear on the body. In reality, it can tax the healing systems of the body just as much as any other stress.

Do you have bad knees? A bad hip? Are you feeling physically worse than you did a decade ago? These can all be the manifestation of physical stress in your life. Many who played sports in high school find these issues manifesting earlier than those who didn’t. Also, having a condition that can cause wear on surrounding joints and bones can cause premature stress on your body.

Trauma

Trauma affects all of us during our lifetimes to one degree or another, but is less of a threat than in days gone by. Before about 1920, trauma was a major contributor to decreased life expectancy. Today, trauma and accidents are more minor factors.

As much as I would like to attribute this shift to people having better sense, we owe a lot of it to “big brother.” Rules, regulations, and government bureaucracies make us wear our seat belts, force manufacturers of automobiles and machines to make safer products, and in general, make our world a safer place. Even so, being careful and ever vigilant is a wise practice.

Temperature Extremes

Extremes in temperature can be quite debilitating. Excessive cold is something that few of us are threatened with today, but cold temperatures have been an ever-present concern to those who have ventured toward the most northern and southern regions of the globe.

DID SEAL BLUBBER SAVE ERNEST SHACKLETON?

I have always been fascinated with the story of Ernest Shackleton, who, in 1914, set out with a crew of 28 men on an attempt to cross the Antarctic continent by dogsled. Early on, their ship was trapped in an ice flow and crushed. The band of intrepid adventurers spent nine months moving with the ice flow until they escaped to desolate Elephant Island via three remaining lifeboats.

Shackleton, with a crew of five men, sailed one of the lifeboats across 800 miles of inhospitable southern ocean to seek rescue. He survived the harrowing journey and returned months later to find all crew members alive.

Shackleton’s adventure was one of a number of expeditions to the northern and southern poles that occurred during that time in history. What sets his experience apart was that the crew survived horrendous conditions for an astoundingly long period of time with no loss of life and minimal loss of limb. Differing from other expeditions, they decided early on to supplement their food supply with seal blubber. Toward the end, this made up a large portion of their diet.

Seal blubber contains very high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and I, for one, believe that diet was a key factor in their survival. Their blood was like antifreeze! Today, the harvest of seals is appropriately banned and seal blubber probably contains much higher levels of toxins than it did in 1914, but regularly consuming other sources of omega-3 fatty acids certainly makes sense for many health reasons.

Most of us would rather be hot than cold, but extreme heat (especially dry heat) can be quite threatening. Excessive heat and dehydration are becoming more of a concern as the world heats up. In 2003, Europe experienced the hottest summer on record. The loss of 35,000 lives could be attributed to either the heat itself or crop shortfalls associated with the drought.

As the population of the world continues to expand and the atmosphere becomes hotter, severe heat waves and shortages of food production across the globe are something with which we will all have to contend.

3 Ways To Alleviate Physical Stress

How are we to combat physical stress in our lives? Here are ways to lessen some of the impact of physical stress and take steps to prevent further unnecessary damage:

Exercise to stay at a safe weight

First and foremost, staying at a safe weight prevents undue stress on joints and ligaments. Everyone is different — ask your doctor what a safe weight looks like for you. Gentle exercise is the best way to achieve this. Just getting out and taking a few short walks a day can lead to making this a long-lasting habit.

Other low-impact activities you can try are yoga, water aerobics, or Qigong. Gentle weight or resistance training might also be an option for you, as well. In general, exercise keeps muscles strong and lubricates joints, along with supporting bone density and helping to control joint discomfort. Exercise done appropriately (with proper warm-ups ahead of time and stretching after) lessen the effects of wear and tear on the body.

Eat well to feed your body

Many of us just eat what we’re craving. While that may feel great in the short term, it can be detrimental to your wellness goals if all the things you crave aren’t healthful. The right combination of dietary fats can support and maintain healthy joints, ligaments, and bones.

Alongside that, a well-diversified diet of vitamins, minerals and herbs can overcome the body’s deficits, support overall wellness and strengthen the immune system. And remember, that old adage is true — you are what you eat.

Get some sleep

Sleeping is your time to recharge your batteries, in so many ways. Aside from allowing yourself to rest and turn off your brain for a while, you also foster an environment of healing through sleep.

If your body has been stressed, sleep is especially important because reserves are already low. Ironically, people suffering from physical or mental stress often find sleep hard to come by. If you’re having trouble getting a regular amount of sleep each night, Bacopa and Passionflower are great herbs for supporting restful sleep.


Changing your lifestyle to restore yourself after years of physical stress is not something that can be achieved overnight. If you incorporate these changes into your life, you’ll see a positive difference in time. The key to feeling better is consistency and commitment — both are within your reach.

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Dr. Bill Rawls

ABOUT BILL RAWLS, M.D.

Dr. Rawls graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1985 and he holds a medical license in North Carolina. He also has extensive training in alternative therapies and is Medical Director of Vital Plan, an herbal supplement company in Raleigh, N.C.

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