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Managing stress for better health outcomes

Experiencing a major health event like joint replacement surgery or a stroke presents some major physical challenges for recovery. Being under stress can makes these challenges even more difficult. When going through a time of recovery, it is important to address both the physical and mental issues that are present since there is a strong connection between the mind and body.

Here’s how prolonged stress can affect the body and key strategies to help you reduce it during your recovery.

The fight-or-flight response

When the body is challenged, the common response is known as fight-or-flight. In some situations, this response is beneficial. For example, if you are in danger, this response automatically activates the sympathetic nervous systems so that hormones are released to prepare you to either face the danger or get away as quickly as possible.

However, this same fight-or-flight response can be prolonged during a medical event and interfere with recovery if not addressed.

The stress hormones: Cortisol and adrenaline

In those fight-or-flight situations, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline. These two hormones can help us confront potentially dangerous situations, but they have long-term detrimental effects.

Cortisol suppresses other normal functions related to sleep, digestion and growth so all energy can go toward dealing with a perceived threat. However, increased cortisol levels can lead to disrupted sleep. Since the body releases proteins and antibodies to fight infection during sleep, disrupted sleep can slow recovery.

Adrenaline makes your heart beat faster, elevates blood pressure and temporarily boosts energy. This would be helpful if you need to escape a burning building but can work against someone who needs their body to focus on recovering from an injury or medical event.

Effects of chronic stress

Long-term exposure to stress can suppress the immune system making it harder to process toxins and control inflammation. It can prolong recovery time and lead to other problems like depression, anxiety, heart disease and weight loss or gain.

However, there are ways to reduce stress levels during recovery. These three strategies can have a positive impact on recovery speed and comfort.

Strategy 1: Accept help from friends and family

Trying to recover all alone can significantly increase stress levels. Accept help from family and friends who are willing to prepare meals, provide transportation to the doctor and help with daily chores. Be open to gestures of kindness like a gift of flowers or a caring phone call. Social interaction can help reduce stress.

Strategy 2: Set realistic goals and rewards

Recovery is a gradual process that requires effort. Plan activities each day and increase them over time. Set goals and work to meet them. Every time a new goal is met, stress levels can be reduced.

Keep goals realistic but progressive. It might be helpful to include rewards to help with motivation. Decide that once a goal is met, reward the effort by going out to dinner or on a trip. Focus on a better future instead of present limitations.

Strategy 3: Consider a short-term rehabilitation stay 

Another way to address stress during recovery is to make plans to stay in a short-term rehabilitation center, where experienced professionals are able to do everything from manage you pain to help you regain flexibility. One of the leading providers for this high level of care is Glenview Terrace. Working one-on-one with your own therapist in gyms filled with targeted equipment, you can regain strength, flexibility, balance and independence seven days a week. You’ll also receive around-the-clock nursing care to assist with personal care and medical issues.

At Glenview Terrace, the focus is always to help get you back to the independent lifestyle you desire. Focusing on healthcare excellence and safety, Glenview Terrace provides the latest infection-control precautions, including routine COVID-19 testing and monitoring. Glenview Terrace is also ranked among the top 1% of all Illinois post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers by Newsweek — and has received Medicare’s highest five-star rating. Glenview Terrace has also earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval certification for post-hospital and post-surgical care. For additional information or to arrange a personalized virtual tour, visit or call 847-729-9090.