Tackling the invisible enemy – stress busting
According to the experts, stress is a modern-day epidemic, even more so with the global widespread of the coronavirus. We cannot see it, touch it, taste it or smell it, but it’s all around us!
It is said that stress is the silent killer. It is invisible, deadly, and heartless. Stress does not target us personally, nor does it care what it does to us. Its success depends primarily on a steady source of fuel and, today, that fuel is Covid-19.
The Effects of Covid-19
The stress that we are enduring during this pandemic has changed all our lives, suddenly and significantly. Billions of people worldwide are gravely concerned, not only about their health, but also about their livelihoods and their future.
On a grand scale, the emotional trauma is taking a toll on us. The psychological ramifications are yet to be realised. So many of us have feelings of desperation and are demoralised to some extent.
The prevailing mood gets darker by the minute, as the coronavirus mercilessly infiltrates the nations across the globe causing devastation, doom and gloom wherever it touches down. As a result, feelings of vulnerability, despair, and worthlessness, to name a few, pervade the atmosphere, creating a Covid-centric climate.
One of the questions that many of us wonder, which seems unanswerable at the moment, is: “Will life ever be the same as it was before Covid-19 crept up on us like a thief in the night?”
Ironically, we are constantly warned that stress is bad for us and may even make us more susceptible to the coronavirus. Yet we are supposed to be managing our stress levels while simultaneously being inundated with information on Covid-19.
How will that be possible to achieve, you may ask?
We are fully aware of the adage “Prevention is better than cure”, but the environment that we are operating in is far from easy. That the human body is capable of handling remarkably stressful situations and has done so for aeons cannot be discounted.
It is not that we are incapable of handling stress; it is just that the type of stress that we are facing is almost unprecedented.
The periodontist Al Danenberg postulates that stress affects our gut, our immune system and our brains, especially if the stress is continuous and there appears to be no end in sight.
The consequences of stress related to Covid-19 could be subtle or may create significant and immediate effects. It may even affect our bodies months or years later, manifesting as one of the many types of chronic diseases, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, heart failure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and so on, all of which could be caused, at least partly, by stress.
The immune system may also begin destroying normal human cells causing autoimmune diseases, like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
While it is proven that a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices could result in gut dysbiosis, which is known as “leaky gut”, it is also hypothesised that chronic stress could cause it, too.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that chronic diseases are responsible for 70 per cent of all deaths in the United States. For the most part, these chronic diseases originate from low-grade, systemic, chronic inflammation originating in the gut.
It is safe to say that the emotional stress produced by Covid-19, along with dysbiosis in the gut, can be significant factors that can cause the body to go into a prolonged tailspin, leading to disastrous outcomes.
Mark Hyman, one of the leading experts in functional medicine, states that if we really knew what was happening to us when we are stressed, we would freak out!
However, there are several stress hacks that we could implement to tackle stress head-on. Let us examine these stress busters and try to apply them as best we can to navigate a course towards a stress-free state of mind.
The list of stress busters is far from exhaustive, but it is a good starting point to help us cope in these turbulent times:
1, Be present
It boils down to one-on-one. Focus on the moment. Not on the past or on the future; just on the moment.
2, Changing our mindset
Changing our stressful mindset about the coronavirus may not happen instantaneously, but it is possible to shift our reaction to our stress.
3, Reduce your dependence on the news
Constant news on television and other media can be upsetting and depressing. If these sources create undue stress, then watch, or listen to, them sparingly.
4, Eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods
Try to eat a variety of healthy whole foods that give you the nutrients that you need to maintain your health, feel good and have energy.
5, Experience empathy for yourself and for others
You will learn compassion for yourself, and you will better understand what affects others.
6, Set up routine and structure for your workday
Create boundaries between “work time” and “home time”. Set a routine as if you are going into the office, with a regular start time, finish time and a structure for your day, with breaks and exercise scheduled in. This will help you maintain a strong boundary between work and home life, minimise the possibility of work intruding into your family time, and help you switch off from work at the end of the day.
7, Give your children extra time and attention
Children need adults’ love and attention during difficult times. Remember to listen to your children, speak kindly and reassure them.
8, Keep to the children’s regular routines and schedules
If this proves to be difficult, then you could help create new routines in a new environment, including school/learning as well as time for safely playing and relaxing.
9, Explore and practise specific stress-management practices
These may include progressive muscle-relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, tai chi and various forms of exercises.
10, Taking time for yourself
Close the door, shut off all outside chatter and draw that infused Epsom salts, baking soda and lavender oil bath. To top if off, light those fragrance candles, too, and listen to some relaxing music.
11, Dance, just dance
Browse iTunes or Spotify under your favourite genre and let loose. Dance like there is no one watching.
12, Read or listen to inspiring material
There are tons of good material available online. Actually, Hay House is hosting a summit called “You Can Heal Your Life” It commences on April 30 with a series of lessons available to enjoy free for 48 hours only.
Yes, I know that trying to manage stress effectively during these terrifying times may sound overly sanguine, or even unfeasible, but consider the alternative. Each of our responses to the virus is incredibly complex and varied. However, in retrospect, we will be able to ask ourselves how each of us responded to this pandemic.
Questions such as:
• Did we live in accordance with our values?
• Did we make the most of this opportunity to learn and grow personally, to connect with our loved ones?
• If we were ever to be faced with another crisis, will we be prepared to handle the related stress better?
• Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24505971 https://www.youcanhealyourlifesummit.com/ The Stress of Covid-19 and its Consequences by Al Danenberg Stress Solutions: Hack Your Stress, Calm Your System and Take Charge Of Your Life, by Evan Brand
• Anne S. Leese, the author of From Mercury to Marvellous, has worked in the Caribbean, Germany and England, and possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, and a Master of Arts in Globalisation, Development and Transition. She can be followed on Facebook and Instagram
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