We like to be prepared for anything at any time so we can stay safe. We want to know what is around the corner. Luckily, our bodies have a way to prepare for anything—stress. Stress is our body’s natural physical and mental response to a threat. Chemicals are released that increase heart rate and blood pressure, quicken breathing, and tighten muscles. We are ready for the threat if needed. In small doses, stress is helpful in preventing injuries (e.g., stopping the car quickly when someone walks into our path). We recover quickly once the threat passes.
What if the threat is ongoing? During COVID-19, we face many unknowns. How long will this last? Will I test positive for COVID-19? Am I a carrier? Am I taking all the proper precautions? Are others around me doing the same? On and on the unknowns go. These unknowns can lead to ongoing stress. When our stress response is ongoing, it affects our health and can make us sick. And we may not even realize it is happening. So, the first step in managing our stress is knowing the symptoms. Stress symptoms appear in our body, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Body: We can experience headaches, fatigue, aches and pains, and tightened muscles. Symptoms can also include increased heart rate, clenched jaws, upset stomach, and changes in sleep.
Thoughts: Symptoms can include constant worry, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and negative thinking.
Feelings: When we think negatively, we feel negatively. Common feelings can include agitation, frustration, feeling overwhelmed, withdrawn, and difficulty relaxing.
Behaviors: Stress can show up as changes in appetite, avoiding responsibilities, fidgeting, pacing, nail biting, and increased substance use (e.g., alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco).
There are long-term impacts on health if we do not manage stress. In addition to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, chronic physical conditions can develop. These conditions can include heart disease, weight gain, stomach issues, skin and hair problems, and sexual problems.
Good news is we can effectively manage stress using strategies such as: Staying connected to family and friends virtually or with proper social distancing during COVID-19
Keeping a sense of humor
Making time for fun activities, such as painting, listening to music, reading
Getting regular exercise
Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation
Getting good sleep
Eating well-balanced meals
Avoiding tobacco and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
TrestleTree is here to help individuals manage stress around the ongoing pandemic. TrestleTree Health Coaches work to find personalized ways for individuals to manage their stress and put good coping skills into place given their unique life circumstances and sources of stress.