Is stress making you pee your pants?
Stress upregulates your nervous system which can present in physical symptoms. Not a shocker, but why don't we dive deeper...
You should ideally spend 80% of your time in your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that helps you relax after a period of STRESS or danger; it is also the system that helps run life-sustaining processes, like digestion, when you are relaxed. Let's kick things off and address the elephant in the room, I dare you to find five people in your life who are not stressed out.
Your parasympathetic nervous system:
a. Is your Rest and Digest system.
b. Is predominantly during quiet or restful periods.
c. Helps to regulate basic body functions such as urination and digestion.
i. Regulates the emptying of the bladder.
ii. Influences bowel motility.
d. Influences sexual functions such as maintaining erections and achieving orgasm.
The other 20% of time should be lived in your sympathetic nervous system. Your heartrate increases to help deliver oxygenated blood to areas that help you respond quickly. It is inevitable that there will be stressful moments in your lifetime. Whether these are little moments, like an argument, or big moments, like a fire, knowing what happens in your body when your sympathetic nervous system responds is important to knowing what to do when it happens.
Your sympathetic nervous system:
a. Is your Fight or Flight system.
b. Prepares the body for strenuous activity.
c. Increases blood flow to working muscles.
d. Prevents urination, defecation, and the flow of menstrual blood.
e. Encourages erectile dysfunction.
f. Inhibits/slows digestion.
g. Can increase pain.
h. Causes increased muscle tone/contraction which can lead to increased and/or chronic pain.
When your nervous system is upregulated, you spend more of your day in your sympathetic nervous system. This can often result in increased muscle tension, particularly in your
and your Pelvic floor.
Increased tone in your pelvic floor can be related to a whole host of symptoms such as
low back and hip pain,
Additionally, the upregulation of your nervous system affects your digestion because you aren't spending as much time in your “rest and digest” system. One thing this can lead to is constipation due to decreased bowel motility (movement of contents through the bowels). Stress can also lead to poor sleep quality, which leads to more stress and even worse sleep quality and on and on. Sleep is when your body "resets", and the quality of your sleep affects how well you think, react, work, learn, and interact with others. Sleep can also affect your blood pressure, slow your metabolism, exacerbate sleep apnea, and stifle your immune system response. Poor sleep quality ends up bleeding into your waking hours as well.
There are many, many ways to manage and prevent stress in your life. The important thing is to find the ways that work for you. There are things that work for MOST people that may not work for you. Remember to give yourself lots of grace in the process; it is trial and error. Some things you can do to help tackle/manage/prevent stress in your life are:
Seeing your Empower Pelvic Health pelvic floor specialist. You may very well be at the point where your muscles are chronically tight and are impacting your day-to-day life with symptoms such as urinary incontinence, constipation, pelvic pain, or pain with intercourse. Your physical therapist can help you identify what areas are impacting your quality of life and help you address each and every one with hands-on, one-on-one care, individualized to each patient (not cookie-cutter).
Prioritizing good sleep hygiene. Poor sleep quality and stress are cyclically related. As we mentioned above one affects the other affects the other. Making choices to better your sleep hygiene can stop this cycle in its tracks. Limit screen time before bed as blue light can impact your sleep quality, use a sound machine, journal right before bed to get your thoughts out, etc. Find the solution for you and get some good, restful sleep!
Practicing intentional breathing. Purposeful breathing is like a dimmer switch to the brain saying, “Hey, let’s take a second and calm down.” You may not even recognize that your heartrate has sped up and so has your breathing. Taking a couple of minutes just to slow things down is not just going to affect your nervous system response in the moment but overall, as well. You may not be able to breathe in for twelve second and out for twelve seconds, but doing what you can for a couple minutes and building on it from there can change your life.
Incorporating intentional movement into your day. Movement really is good for the soul! Whether it's dancing around the kitchen while you finish dinner or do the dishes, it’s going for an evening or morning walk, or integrating some functional training into your week, working movement into your life can make a huge difference on your stress levels.
Practicing gratitude. Directing your energy into positivity and thankfulness rather than negativity can have such an impact on your reactions to stressful situations! This doesn't have to be structured or rigid, that can create its own stress. It can be quick moments in the car line, while making dinner, or while you’re changing your baby’s diaper. This truly is a long-term tool to help you manage stress throughout your life.
Engaging in self-care. Whatever this means or looks like to you, adding in some little moments for yourself throughout the day can have a big impact over time! This could be reading with a cup of coffee, listening to an inspiring podcast or audiobook, or setting aside five minutes just for yourself to practice gratitude or intentional breathing. If you want to go big, self-care can be a spa day, a walk in the park, or a night out with friends. The important thing is to do what will feed your soul.
Did you see yourself in this post? Do you know or recognize how stress has impacted you? Are you ready to start addressing the impact stress has had on your body? Contact us today and speak with our Patient Care Coordinator; she will chat with you about your symptoms, what care is like here, and how we can help you!