Your how-to guide on optimizing your recovery: Stress Management, Sleep
Hygiene and Nutrition - The Basics
In order to optimally recover, you need to have your stress management, sleep hygiene, and nutrition dialed in.
Below we will offer a brief overview of our comprehensive Thrive Care stress, sleep and nutrition for injury recovery tool kit.
Stress and Recovery
When recovering from any injury, mindset is CRUCIAL. After an injury, many negative thoughts can start to creep in....Maybe I shouldn’t be working out, what’s the point of exercise when all I do is get hurt? Great, now I won’t reach my goal that I have worked so hard for, why even try? Maybe that exercise I did is “bad.” I won’t be able to keep up with my friends.” The list goes on and on...What we need to do is shift gears, change lanes and DON’T slow down. Negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions and negative emotions can lead to negative or self-destructive behaviors.
The earlier we can shift our mindset and “zoom out,” the earlier we can break that cycle of negativity and get back to doing what we love to do. The only way to guarantee that you won’t get injured is to not work out or exercise at all, and I think we all know how detrimental that is to our mind, body and emotional state. That is NOT an option. When you get injured, it is ok to get upset or “fired up,” in fact that is a good thing. It means that you care about whatever it is you’re getting worked up about. However, we challenge you when you face those thoughts and emotions to not try and shut them out but rather accept them, take them in, but then start to shift your mind to getting away from “I can’t do this anymore” to “how can I do this differently.”
Stress on the body/mind isn’t always bad. Not only that, but research has shown that stress can be a positive thing. With all that being said, we want to be clear that although there is an upside to stress, there are upper limits, and that too much, and/or unrelenting stress can be harmful.
Each one of us experiences numerous stressors each day. In basic terms, a stressor is something that disrupts our baseline, or homeostasis. For example, when we go in a sauna the heat can be a stressor as it begins to increase our body temperature from its ideal baseline.
When we experience a stressor, we respond with a stress response. Continuing our sauna example, our stress response to the stressor of the sauna heat is that we begin to sweat as a way to help our bodies cool and maintain homeostasis (aka our normal body
temperature). There are many types of stressors, and they can be real or perceived. A real stressor is the physical trauma that occurred from an injury. A perceived stressor might be the feeling of a threat to our ego as we need to ask for more assistance or limit our normal activities as our bodies heal from the injury. Both of these types of stressors can cause the same hormonal response.
Again, we all experience many stressors, and the sum of all of these stressors is called the allostatic load. Each and every one of us has a different level of allostatic load that we can tolerate. We strongly believe that an improved stress mindset can allow for an increased potential of allostatic load (i.e. a higher amount of stress that is tolerable), and can help us better utilize our stressors for positive change. Nevertheless, we all have a point of “too much stress” where it is more than our bodies and minds can tolerate. Although it is usually a single stressor that seems to “put us over the edge,” it really isn’t that single stressor to blame, but rather the
accumulation of all the stressors (aka the allostatic load).
For example, imagine someone who just had an injury that:
Is in their 40’s
Sleeps 5 hours per night
Works 10 hour shifts
Has 3 young children
Is behind on their mortgage payment
The amount of stress they can handle and how their body responds to injury might be different than someone who had an injury that:
Is in their 20’s
Is single without children
Works part time and is able to work from home
Is financially supported by parents and sponsors
Why is this important? As you can see, in the first example, that individual's tolerance to accept any new stress (real or perceived) is going to be lower than the second individual. If we look at all the factors listed you’ll notice some of them are not something they can control/non-modifiable risk factors (i.e. age, length of work shift, kids) but some factors are in their control/modifiable risk factors (i.e. sleep hygiene, smoking cessation, financial management). It is crucial to focus on what you CAN control (i.e. those modifiable risk factors) and start to make small, realistic positive changes.
Try it...Make a list of all your daily stressors and start to brainstorm what you CAN CONTROL and then set small, achievable goals that you can accomplish daily to make progress towards reducing those life stressors.
Additionally, continue to read below for tips on how you can de-stress, sleep better and eat better to optimize your injury recovery. Below are a few options that can be used for actively de-stressing. The objective is to be aware of when your stress levels are rising, and to practice de-stressing with one or more of the options below.
There are so many other options as well... the point is to find what works best for you and to have several options at your fingertips.
Sleep Hygiene and Recovery
The number 1 thing that is in your control, which can positively or negatively impact your ability to recover, will be your sleep. It is the top dog in the realm of helping your body recover and repair. Oftentimes, we find ourselves in an injured state, possibly even your current injury, that can be in part chalked up to being chronically “under recovered.” We challenge our bodies each and every day, some of us more than others.
These stresses we put on our bodies can be incredibly beneficial. As we challenge our bodies with different stresses, our bodies will in the moment break down slightly, but then can respond by building up stronger; however, we need to provide an environment that is conducive to recovery, otherwise we can find ourselves in a chronic state of being under recovered. This chronic state of not recovering eventually leads to the failure of tissues/structures in our bodies.
While we sleep, our bodies are like the janitors at a school, cleaning up the messes from the day and performing general maintenance.
Getting “good” sleep involves a combination of:
Getting enough sleep
Regular sleep-wake cycle
Getting Enough Sleep:
The minimum amount of sleep we need is 6 hours. Period. Anything less than this is strongly correlated with deleterious effects on your health, and will significantly impair your ability to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally.
For most adults, we average around 1 hour of “awake time” each night. Likely you don’t even know that you are awake during this time. However, if you were to have a formal sleep study conducted, the electrical activity in your brain would show that you are not in one of the other phases of sleep, which include: REM sleep, deep sleep, and light sleep. This is important because many people think they are getting a full hour of sleep more than they actually are.
When we say 6 hours of sleep, we mean 6 hours of being in some sort of combination of REM, deep, or light sleep... Awake time does not count here. Most wearable devices nowadays (Fitbit, Oura Ring, Whoop watch, etc...) can fairly accurately track your sleep stages to give you a more accurate picture of your total sleep time (as well as time in each stage which we will cover more next).
A simple rule of thumb here is to be in bed with lights out for a minimum of 7 hours, and up to a max of 11 hours (yes... too much sleep can also be detrimental).
Sleeping Well: Sleeping well, or often termed “sleep quality,” is the 2nd part of the equation of good sleep. Think of sleep quality as a multiplier. The higher the quality of sleep you get, the more impactful your hours of sleep will be. Sleep quality is essentially a measure of how much of your sleep is composed of deep and REM sleep. Deep and REM sleep both play very important, but different, roles in helping us recover each night. Good sleep will have more deep and REM sleep, while poor sleep will have less time spent in deep and REM with more time spent in light sleep or more time awake.
Sleep Regularity: The third part of the equation is sleep regularity, or how consistent you are with the time you fall asleep at and the time you wake up at. The more consistent you are with when you sleep and wake up, the better your sleep will be for you. Again, a more consistent sleep schedule has been linked to numerous health benefits.
Sleep Timing: One other consideration we believe is important to consider when recovering from working out, a physical injury, is the timing of when you go to sleep. Deep sleep is going to be the most important stage of your sleep to help with the physical repair that needs to occur following your injury. Our circadian rhythms work in a way where going to sleep around 9 or 10 pm allows us to maximize our deep sleep. On the other hand, going to bed in the wee hours of the night will likely lead to less deep sleep, even if you sleep in and still sleep for the same amount of time.
Nutrition and Recovery
If sleep is the “king or queen of recovery,” then nutrition would be the “prince or princess.” Just like with sleep, the choices you make and habits you form around nutrition can either positively or negatively impact your recovery and overall health quite significantly.
Good sleep and nutrition are essential skills that are necessary despite an injury or trauma. Whenever injury happens, this becomes even more paramount.
At Thrive, our coaching method and nutrition guidance are heavily influenced by the work of Precision Nutrition. We truly believe in their philosophy, and are proud to toot their horn.
Through this nutrition section, you will see that we include some amazing resources that have already been created by Precision Nutrition.
These are handouts that we utilize during many of our coaching sessions with other members, and you get access to them through this workbook.
As with all of these sections, we could write an entire book on nutrition for recovery and health, but we will do
our best to keep things focused and actionable by limiting our scope to working on:
Eating well consistently
Eating enough nutrients
Choosing better foods
Some of our most common recommendations to those recovering, either from injury is:
Make sure you are eating adequate protein (for injury recovery it should be 1.5-2.0 grams/kilogram of body weight.
Supplement with vitamin C for 7-14 days (1-2g) - ask your provider first before taking
Supplement Turmeric - ask your provider first before taking
If you haven’t been taking it already, start taking fish oil or eat more foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Decrease intake of highly processed foods or foods that contain a lot of sugar (if you can’t pronounce the ingredient list, it probably isn’t good for you).
“Eat the rainbow” - eat a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables.