Chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on the wound healing process.

Many different factors come together to determine how quickly and effectively the body heals from wounds. The wound healing process relies largely on one’s physical condition – for example, diabetics, smokers and people with immunological conditions often have a harder time recovering. Many people may not realize it, but psychological elements can also come into play. Stress is among the most common natural reactions, and it can have detrimental effects on healing.

Understanding stress

Stress is the body’s natural response to any outside stimulus that agitates you mentally or physically. It’s a part of the “fight-or-flight” mechanism, in which the body secretes a boost of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline during tense situations. In small amounts, stress can be a life-saving thing. After all, it has worked to prompt our ancestors to take action in the face of danger.

However, long-term stress can be harmful to one’s health. To make matters worse, some people’s bodies overreact to everyday, non-threatening life stressors, such as deadlines and traffic jams, causing continuous and chronic anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, it can lead to anxiety, insomnia, muscle soreness and weakening of the immune system. Additionally, chronic stress can cause high blood pressure, which may in turn induce cardiovascular issues such as stroke and heart attack.

Clinical proof

Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a multi-departmental review into the effects of psychological stress on wound healing. The scientists were aware beforehand of clinical indications that stress negatively affects recovery, but they were determined to look deeper into the mechanisms and methods by which it worked. Through evaluation and analysis of studies, they concluded that, in addition to the weakened immune function that comes with chronic stress, it promotes habits that can diminish one’s health.

For instance, people who are experience anxiety may also have trouble sleeping at night. This can further exacerbate the weakening of the immune system, which can in turn lead to wound infection when the body can’t fight off harmful bacteria. Additionally, many people who suffer from chronic stress turn to stimulants for comfort. As the National Institutes of Health reported, chronic stress is strongly linked to alcohol and drug abuse, and people with this condition often smoke, use psychostimulants and drink alcohol regularly.

Easing stress

Finding ways to alleviate stress is important not only for the wound healing process but also for a person’s general health and happiness. There are many options for reducing and learning to manage stress. Meditation is a common treatment, and the ancient practice has been used for centuries as a way to find peace. Even just a few minutes every day can help instill calm and tranquility – as you learn to focus on the present, become more self-aware and dismiss negative emotions, you may find that you are able to take new perspectives on stressful situations. According to the Mayo Clinic, it has also been shown to ease other symptoms related to chronic stress, including insomnia, high blood pressure, muscle pain and depression.

On the opposite spectrum of options is brisk exercise. Any form of exercise, from yoga to running, can help alleviate tension, as physical activity works to boost serotonin levels, clear the mind and promote a sense of optimism. You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from exercise, but don’t expect immediate results. It takes time and a regular activity routine to feel the effects, but you may find yourself feeling healthier, happier and more apt for wound healing.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.