Whilst we are all cooped up inside in these extreme circumstances it is highly likely that stress levels will rise. However, everything you can do to reduce the impact stress has on you will help support your general health.
Unfortunately, the negative health effects of stress can be far reaching. Apart from the impact it has on your emotional balance and sleep, stress can challenge your ability to maintain healthy digestive, cardiovascular and immune system. This is because stress causes changes in the body’s chemistry, altering the balance of hormones in ways that can impact your entire body.
What is our response to stress?
When you are stressed your body perceives a threat which it needs to deal with using your body’s resources. In times gone by, stress would often mean that we were faced with a predator of physical threat. In this situation your body would need
• Increased heart rate & blood pressure to get more blood round your body
• Increased breathing rate to give you oxygen to get away
• Increased blood sugar for instant energy to run to safety or fight
Nowadays, the stress response is more likely to be caused by uncertain work circumstances, relationship worries, housebound children and financial pressures; very different stresses to those we faced thousands of years ago. However, our body will respond in pretty much the same way. You may not be able to do much about your stress triggers – but what you can do is identify them and work out how you can reduce the extent to which they affect you. This might mean thinking about and focusing on things you can change or control versus those you can’t. If there are small things that are stressing you then try to let go of them and focus on what really matters. If you are feeling stressed or anxious there are some things that you can do:
- Breathing more deeply and slowly from your diaphragm and holding your breath for a short time can really help to slow down your heart rate.
- Exercising won’t just keep you fit it will also help to reduce tension. This could be an online exercise class or yoga and Pilates sessions online. You can connect up to friends and do a class together
- Laughter – laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. It also releases feel good endorphins
- Staying connected – people who are lonely are more likely to have higher cortisol levels
- Don’t take on too much – you
Some of us have more time now so try to allocate some time for yourself to do practice some self-care. As well as being kind to others at this difficult time we should maybe think about being kind to ourselves. Is there an activity you enjoy and to which you can allocate some time. This will dampen down your response to stress, reducing its impact on your body and your health.