The corona virus pandemic has changed life and changes can be hard. These are stressful times as we don’t know what the future holds for us. But we must move on and make the most of every moment of our life.
Stress is a person’s physical or emotional response to the demands or pressure of daily life & all of us face it at some time.
Short burst of stress are actually helpful to avoid danger or meet deadlines, but long term stress increases cortisol levels leading to chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, osteoporosis, weight gain, tiredness, impaired brain function & infections due to decreased immunity.
Common causes of stress are work pressure, money problems, relationship’s conflicts, overwhelming family responsibilities, illness, facing big changes or uncertain times, no control of a situation & worrying about something constantly.
Signs of stress: -Anger, irritability, restlessness
-Anxiety, depression, being overwhelmed, unmotivated, unfocussed
– Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
-Having racing thoughts & constantly worrying
-Having problems with memory & concentration
-Making bad decisions
Some practical ways you could try to reduce stress
- Sleep: Minimum 7 to 8 hours. To get good sleep exercise daily, avoid caffeine, limit bright light, TV, phone, distractions & play soft music.
- Exercise: 30 minutes daily for at least 6 days. Include steps around your daily routine & be active throughout the day. Get more than 5000 steps a day.
- Practice mindfulness: Learn to recognize stressful thoughts, replace worry & anxiety by focussing on your breathing, thinking about beautiful things or things to be grateful for. Make an effort to find the positive in your life.
- Relax: Listen to soothing music (instrumental) & nature sounds.
- Go easy on yourself: Have fun, nurture yourself & try something new. Laugh, take up hobbies like gardening, singing, cooking, painting, reading, drawing etc.
- Stay connected: Maintain healthy relationships with family & friends, practice being mindful & non judgemental, show empathy & forgive others. Take support of your loved ones, spend time with them. Have a support system.
- Take care of a pet.
- Be your best self: Identify the source of feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy. Do not suppress or ignore the feeling or it may have a negative impact. Focus on things you can control, make a change, forgive yourself & move on to improve your sense of well being.
- Tend to your spirituality: Prayer & meditation are associated with reduced anxiety & depression. Join a church group. Perform acts of kindness.
- Healthy nutritious food: Eat dark chocolate, yogurt, fruits & vegetables. Drink black or green tea. Hydrate well. Avoid sugars & refined foods. Avoid excessive coffee, beverages & alcohol.
- Spend time outdoors: Sunshine can boost your mood. Green spaces keep depression & hypertension at bay.
- Limit news & social media: Especially if you feel more anxious after news.
- Give & receive help: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Donate & care for others. It helps you feel better.
- Set goals: Goals help you stay focused &give you a clearer purpose. Don’t get upset if you have to put them on hold at times.
- Start a journal: A gratitude journal can help lift your mood.
- Create a routine: Chart a routine & have “Me Time”.
Practicing some of the above techniques could be useful to keep stress at bay. If symptoms still persist or worsen seek professional help..
Dr. Lorna Fernandez