|February 4, 2016||
Too Much Stress or Not Enough Recovery?
Post courtesy content partners Labrix Clinical Services, LLC
For many natives of the Pacific Northwest, the sights and sounds of the latest downpour hitting against the windows conjured up childhood memories of days spent inside, wistfully waiting for drier weather. For the outdoor enthusiasts of today, the tables have been turned. With the invention of weatherproof fabrics, the focus is no longer on the oppressive limitations of these external factors but is rather on how we can best respond to them. Today, a rainy day simply means choosing waterproof gear before venturing outside.
This shift in focus is also developing within the medical world with regards to stress and health. In this modern society, schedules intensify and technological innovations bring new and exciting ways for us to communicate with one another, but these innovations rarely relieve our stress. For many, they add to it. If stress can’t be stopped from occurring, how can responses to stress be optimized? Research confirms that a lack of recovery and restitution may be a greater health risk than the absolute level of strain itself.
Identifying the physiologic effects of stress and burnout on individuals may be the initial approach. This is easily and accurately achieved via salivary adrenal function testing with DHEA and diurnal cortisol levels serving as objective biomarkers. Once assessed, these levels represent the extent of strain on the HPA axis and aid in guiding successful treatment plan development. See:Adrenal Dysfunction Stages & Treatment Considerations.
In addition, providers can empower patients to achieve meaningful psychological recovery with proven lifestyle modifications – even during a 5-20 minute break during the workday. Spending time in and around nature has been shown to be effective, as have the four mechanisms of a recovery experience as defined by Sonnentag and Fritz:
- Detach: Disengage both physically and mentally, from work.
- Relax: Choose an activity that allows a state of low activation and increased positive affect to be achieved.
- Mastery: Exposure to challenging experiences and learning opportunities during non-work time.
- Control: Be in control of when and how to pursue activities during non-work time.
By educating patients and supporting their physical and psychological ability to fully recover from stress, their focus can be successfully shifted away from the oppressive limitations of stress and toward action-oriented strategies for recovery – shifting their attitudes from a helpless sounding “I’m so stressed out!” to an empowered “I’m recovery deficient, but I’m working on it!”
- Marchand A, Juster RP, Durand P, Lupien SJ. Burnout symptom sub-types and cortisol profiles: what’s burning most? Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014;40:27-36
- Bloom de Jessica, Kinnunen Ulla, and Korpela Kalevi. Exposure to nature versus relaxation during lunch breaks and recovery from work: development and design of an intervention study to improve workers’ health, well-being, work performance and creativity. BMC Public Health. 2014; 14: 488.
- Sonnentag S, Fritz C: The recovery experience questionnaire: development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. J Occup Health Psychol 2007, 12:204–221