So, how are you doing? Really, how are you? Do you find yourself feeling emotions such as sadness or loneliness? Because the global pandemic forced all of us to change our daily lives drastically, feelings associated with stress and boredom are no surprise. Life abruptly changed for the entire world in a mere moment, and we are just now beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here at Innova Primary Care, we treat the entire person. We know that health is more than a set of statistics and measurements. We know that your mental and emotional well-being directly impacts your physical health; this is why we treat you as a whole. Pandemic stress and boredom are soaring, but you can take steps to re-frame your mindset and find joy in the everyday.
Did 2020 get to you?
If the answer to this question is yes, please know you are not alone.
Data from a research study on stress in America in January 2021, commissioned by the American Psychological Association, found that Americans are more stressed now than in April of 2020. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed reported feeling emotions related to stress within the past two weeks. Anxiety, sadness, and anger are at an all-time high.
Stress can be a really good thing. Stress can alert us to potentially dangerous situations and is one way our bodies communicate to us about our environment. From the moment your body perceives a threat, a complex system of hormonal signals and nervous system responses engages. When danger is ahead, the hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. The release of adrenaline causes multiple changes in your body, such as increased heart rate, pulse rate, and blood pressure. As the threat continues, your adrenal glands will secrete cortisol which further prepares you for fight or flight. Once the danger is over, cortisol drops and your body returns to normal.
Your body knows how to cope with stress
Prolonged stress is the issue. With such hectic lives and schedules, and a global pandemic thrown in, many of us live in a constant state of heightened stress. When your body experiences an extended amount of time in stress mode, the stress hormones (which are meant to help us) end up being disruptive.
Persistent stress can put you at risk for heart disease, digestive issues, headaches, weight gain, depression, anxiety, and more. It would be best if you learned to manage your stress, and indeed, during these challenging times, stress-management is necessary.
Managing Long Term Stress
How do I effectively manage my long-term stress? What a great question. While we are speaking specifically to COVID-19 for the purposes of this post, we should note that the tips for coping with stress offered here can be applied in most situations. We are all wired differently, so you will need to find what works best for you.
Chronic stress is something that you can regulate when you have the correct tools in your toolbox.
Think about a home improvement project you have on your list of to-dos. To complete your project, you have to have all the necessary supplies and tools to get the job done. Without the proper tools, you will not be able to see your project through to the end. The same is true for stress management. It would help if you had the right tools to lessen or alleviate your chronic stress. There are many evidence-based ways to help you deal with the stressors in your life. Let’s take a closer look at ways you can handle your stress.
Manage the stress that you can:
How you experience stress depends on your unique situation and perspective. While there will be certain situations that you cannot avoid, you can adjust how you respond to them.
- The rule of 3
The American Psychological Association suggests that you consider your day and find three good things you can reflect upon. The simple act of looking for the positives in your life, no matter how small, is powerful and a great tool for coping with stress.
- Support for coping with stress
COVID-19 has transformed how we interact with one another, but our need for each other has not changed.
Social support is vital for health and well-being. Research shows that having a robust social network assists with resiliency in times of stress and is essential for psychological health.
If you cannot meet in person, pick up the phone for a text or video call. Reach out to friends and family and find a safe way to connect.
- Eat well and get moving
Diet and physical activity have a profound effect on your health, and this is certainly true when it comes to coping with stress.
When cortisol levels are high, the body can cause cravings for foods high in fat and sugar. While these foods are highly satiating, they do not provide the body with the necessary nutrients to help ward off stress. Instead, choose a nutrient-rich diet. You don’t have to give up those treats; just choose them in moderation.
We all know that physical activity is good for us. But did you know that it is an excellent stress reducer? Research shows that exercise has an impact on neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise also assists with stress management because of how it imitates how stress affects our bodies. This allows our body’s systems to work together in a controlled environment from which we can adapt and grow.
- Re-frame your mindset
How we think about something will affect how we feel about something. The emotions we experience then play a role in our behaviors. If you can change the way you think about a given stressor, you can begin to reshape how you feel about the situation. Once your feelings change, the behaviors that did not serve you in the past will begin to change too.
Stress is a natural part of life and something we all experience.
We are designed to confront acute stress head-on, yet when stress stays with us over time, our health and well-being are at stake. Innova Primary Care knows that the past year has left many in a heightened state of stress, and we want to help you find the light. Eat a nutrient-dense diet and get moving, find a few good things about your day, connect with those you love, try to adjust your mindset, and keep going. You are not alone.