Too much stress is not healthy for you. Besides making you feel uneasy, it actually increases your risk for becoming sick. And since illness is the last thing you want right now or at any time, we all need to learn how to cope. Dr. Herbert “Buddy” Coard, Psychologist at Renown Health, shares his advice about managing stress and anxiety while maintaining social distancing.
There’s no question that anxiety has skyrocketed from the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. While experiencing stress is a normal part of life, it’s important to observe our emotions and learn healthier ways to manage them.
Some of those most affected by stress during a disease outbreak may suffer from serious behavioral or emotional distress including:
- Older people and those with chronic diseases who are at greater risk
- Children who have a hard time understanding the current affairs and how to cope
- First responders and healthcare workers on the front lines
- People with mental health conditions, including problems with substance abuse
What Happens When We Feel Stress
When stress strikes, the body’s automatic alarm response starts a “fight-or-flight” reaction from within your nervous system. You think about combating or avoiding the immediate stress.
During this response your heart rate, body temperature, and adrenaline and glucose levels may go up. You might also feel a quick energy boost. Or, as often happens, the response may occur so fast that you don’t realize it’s happening because you become emotional.
After the initial reaction wears off, your nervous system works to calm the body down. This system encourages you to “rest and digest” the stressor. During this response, your blood pressure, breathing rate and hormones return to a normal level.
RELATED: Isolated? Focus On Mental Health
Ways to Cope with Stress:
The next time you feel your fight-or-flight response kick in, try these healthy ways of managing stress:
- Express hope and courage outwardly: Take a positive approach to the situation. Talk to a friend about it or volunteer to help others.
- Take a positive attitude: Accept the situation and focus on what you can control – your response and actions.
- Prepare yourself: Instead of avoiding the situation, find reliable sources of information, practice prevention, and stay informed while not living in fear.
- Stick to a routine: Structure is important since anxiety relates to loss of control. With routine comes a higher level of structure. Schedule times to do fun activities such as a hobby, as well as daily chores.
- Move more: Exercise burns off anxiety. Try light stretching or yoga, go for a nature walk, or dance at home to your favorite music.
- Try repetitive activities and hobbies: From knitting to practicing your breathing, repetitive movements and sounds can be soothing. Choose hobbies or activities involving repetition and mix them into your day.
- Communicate regularly: Whether you seek out therapy, call family members or check in on friends, being present with someone else is a helpful de-stressor.
- Care for yourself: Treat your body well by eating nutritious food, avoiding alcohol and sleeping at least eight hours a day.
- Do what makes you feel relaxed: What are some relaxing things you love doing? Take a mental note of them, or better yet, write them down and put the note on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. This helps to remind you to take a break.
RELATED: Natural Ways to Boost Your Immunity
And, finally, to help reduce everyone’s stress, wash and disinfect your hands regularly and practice social distancing for the greater good of our community. It is possible to be physically apart, but emotionally connected. Remember, we’re all in this together.