As COVID-19 continues to sweep the nation in a wave of fear, illness and job loss, you might feel more than a little stressed. This emotion is natural and understandable — your racing heart and sweaty palms are Mother Nature’s way of preparing your body for battle.
However, chronic stress can have multiple adverse health effects. Therefore, you must find positive outlets for negative emotions. Let’s take a closer look at the way coronavirus concerns impact your body and how you can cope.
How Stress Impacts Your Body
Stress affects every system in your body. Many researchers implicate long-term stress in chronic health conditions, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. They continue to learn more about how inflammation associated with levels of stress hormones influence your health, but here’s what they know so far.
Your Cardiovascular System
When you are under stress, your heart pumps faster and harder to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. Unfortunately, this mechanism also raises your blood pressure, which puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This pressure can also damage your arteries and leave you at risk of a heart attack.
Your Digestive System
Do you notice that you can’t eat at all or devour more than usual when you feel stressed? Levels of stress hormone tell your body to eat more or less to prepare for impending danger. While feeling tense alone won’t cause ulcers, you could suffer more severe acid reflux than usual. You might also develop nausea or diarrhea.
Your Immune System
Right now, you need a robust immune system more than ever. Unfortunately, stress can deplete your reserves. High levels of adrenaline and cortisol make finding sleep elusive, which decreases the number of cytokines you produce, proteins that help heal your body. Additionally, you become more susceptible to viruses, and it can take you longer to recover from injury or illness.
Your Mental Health
Stress can take a severe toll on your mental health. It can trigger disorders like anxiety and depression when you feel unable to manage everything. Women, in particular, face a higher risk of feeling extra pressure to take care of their children while maintaining a job. Now, moms are experiencing increased anxieties in this area while working from home.
Techniques for Managing Stress
It’s important to have coping mechanisms in this challenging time. Many therapists are now available via telemedicine. However, if you recently lost your insurance due to job loss, you may lack the financial means to attend. Try the following holistic remedies to regain a sense of stability.
Right now, you might feel completely adrift, especially if you no longer have to wake up to rush to work. However, if you know that the morning means lacing up your running shoes, you have a reason to get out of bed. Even in jurisdictions under stay-at-home orders allow people to go outdoors for solo exercise, so dust off that bike.
Now is also the ideal time to explore the world of fitness apps. Many popular app services now offer coronavirus specials for new users and returning subscribers.
When was the last time you laughed so hard that you thought your sides would burst? You have extra time, so why not tune in to a raucous comedy show or movie? You probably want to avoid anything that could potentially trigger you during this time, such as horror films. Make a slideshow of favorite memes to serve as the screensaver on your computer — you’ll get a chuckle every time you log in to telework.
Right now, you might crave carbs more than usual, and you can blame your brain. According to Japanese researchers, activating the neurons associated with social stress — like the pandemic has done — caused rodents to scarf down carbohydrates at three times the rate of normal mice. Since you have time, spend a morning prepping healthy meals that you can keep in the freezer to snack on when you feel the urge. Focus on plant-based recipes that contain filling grains, such as quinoa.
Focus on What You Can Control
Right now, you can’t control much — you don’t get to decide what the federal government, your governor or your employer does. However, their decisions impact your life, and this can leave you feeling helpless.
Instead, focus on what you can control. Even if you got laid off, you could arrange your schedule to focus on your job search for several hours daily. You can identify areas of your budget that you can cut back. Use apps that help you identify duplicate and unwanted subscriptions and use them to pare your spending. While you can’t have a yard sale, you can clean out your closets and identify goods you can list on eBay or Facebook Marketplace when the crisis abates.
You don’t have to go to a spa to practice self-care. This practice merely refers to life-affirming activities that decrease your stress levels and benefit you mentally. It can take various forms, such as:
- Get more sleep: Rest helps to bolster your immune system.
- Take a hot bath: The warm water will soak away frazzled nerves.
- Practice yoga: This exercise is a fabulous way to focus on the present.
Manage the Stress of Coronavirus and Feel Your Best
You are not alone if you feel extraordinarily stressed right now. However, you can regain control and exert a sense of normalcy over your world by embracing positive habits during troubled times.