This post is part two in my series about ways to stay positive and calm during the pandemic. Staying well mentally and physically during a pandemic is difficult for many people. If you’re feeling anxious about the Coronavirus, there are things you can do to help relieve your anxiety or stress while at home.
I’m first going to discuss how and why our bodies react to stress and anxiety and then ways to manage it.
These tips are just a guide and not intended to give medical advice. I have my degree in psychology but am not a practicing psychologist. If you are experiencing depression or anxiety attacks during this time, please see your counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor.
The fear factor
Fear is a stress response. We’re born with it as part of our natural survival instinct. Stress reactions are our body’s way of heightening our physical and psychological abilities in dangerous situations. A surge of adrenaline sends your heart racing, shortens your breathing, tenses muscles and increases your alertness.
We all have fear from time to time. As children, our fears were likely in response to an immediate threat. We got tense immediately and relaxed when the danger passed. As adults, our concerns are more often about future possibilities. We fear the unknown, losing control, and how to protect loved ones from danger. Our body naturally reacts to these concerns. But because the threat may be less defined or doesn’t pass immediately, there is no release from the tension. We can’t let it go.
When a stressful situation lasts too long without any relief, our mind and body weaken. Our unrelieved fears are no longer a response to danger but themselves become a danger to our health and wellbeing.
Continued stress contributes to illness and threatens our ability to function day-to-day.
The immunity challenge
Many studies state that our stress response is a factor in many stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure and digestive problems.
There is also evidence that stress can weaken the immune system. The hormones cortisone and adrenaline released in response to stress are potent immune system suppressors. Doctors sometimes prescribe them for overactive immune system disorders, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases.
Some people under stress behave in ways that are also harmful to the immune system. They sleep less, exercise less, eat poorly, smoke, drink and use drugs more than people who are less stressed.
Your mind and body
Your mind and body are connected. When your mind is healthy, your body resists illness better. When your body is healthy, you feel more positive.
Whatever the cause of stress or illness, you can boost your health by dealing with stress head-on. It means taking a good look at your life and opting out of things that are stressful to you or unnecessary.
Right now is an excellent time to assess your life, especially if you’re self-isolating or quarantined. It can help eliminate some of the boredom of staying indoors for long periods. Even boredom can be stressful for some.
Of course, no one can eliminate all stress, but you can reduce your body’s response to stress by learning some stress management techniques.
Eat this not that
Poor eating habits at times of stress can negatively impact your immunity.
Cut out junk food like chips, chocolate and fried foods, alcohol and caffeine. Also, cigarettes if you smoke. I know it’s not food, but I needed to throw it in!
Get lots of immunity-boosting foods into your diet. Some include:
- Citrus: oranges, grapefruits, limes and lemons
- Red bell peppers
- Green tea
Try these activities to relieve stress and anxious tension.
Workout. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. It not only helps manage stress and tension, but it also improves your immunity.
Deep Breathing. Inhale deeply so that your stomach expands. Hold your breath for three seconds and then slowly exhale. Repeat this for five minutes.
Meditation. Close your eyes and follow your breathing. As you exhale, in your head, repeat a simple word with each breath. Or think about a peaceful scene. Do this for at least five minutes. For more benefit, you can do it for up to 30 minutes.
Self-Talk. Replace negative internal responses to stress with positive ones. For example, change “I can’t cope,” with “I know I can do it.”
Laugh. Do things that will make you laugh. Play games, read or watch comedies.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Sit or lie down in a relaxed position. Flex your feet muscles as much as you can. Next, relax them and pay attention to the difference in the feeling. Do the same with the muscles in your legs, arms, stomach, back, neck and head, one area at a time. When finished, stay relaxed for a few minutes.
Stretch. Sit in a chair with your upper body resting on your lap. Slowly roll up, starting at the base of your spine, until your back is completely straight. Stretch your neck muscles by tilting your head to the right. Slowly roll your head down and to the left. Repeat this a few times in both directions.
Self-Massage. Sit with your shoulders relaxed. Use your right hand to massage your left shoulder and neck. Work your way up to the scalp. Repeat, using your left hand for the right shoulder.
If you have trouble managing your stress, some help may be needed. Speak with your counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor.
Friday’s post will discuss total body workouts you can do at home to keep your fitness up during this time.