College of Dupage Nursing Student Danielle Rome wrote for Healthy Lombard that during this dreadful pandemic of COVID-19, everyone’s stress levels have skyrocketed due to lost jobs, schools transitioning to solely online learning (even Kindergarten), and the overall fear of getting COVID-19 when venturing out in public. While some stress is beneficial, is important to have a balance between times of stress and times without stress.
Your Body Under Stress
When the body experiences stress, the hormone cortisol is released along with epinephrine, which is also called adrenaline. According to Mayo Clinic (2019), cortisol alters immune system responses by suppressing the digestive system, reproductive system and growth processes while simultaneously affecting parts of the brain that control mood, motivation, and fear. In the context of the current pandemic, potential stressors may impact the mind and body without one realizing its effects.
We are often not aware of long-term stress and its negative impact on various body systems. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH, 2020), this chronic stress potentially disturbs the aforementioned body systems (immune, digestive, cardiovascular and reproductive) and may also affect sleep.
Take Some Time and De-stress Yourself!
Nowadays, most of us are trying to stay healthy by staying home, although much of this time may actually be more stressful than relaxing. It is not as easy to enjoy activities like we used to due to the added stress. At times like this, it is important to consider how to manage stress, most of which are easy to implement with a little effort. First, start simple by relaxing the muscles in the body while at the same time, relaxing the mind by performing deep breathing exercises or meditation. This will help to clear your mind which may be beneficial at any time in life.
Next, take time each day to move by engaging in some type of physical activity. Whether bike riding, walking or even going to a class offered at a nearby gym, adding physical activity equivalent to 30 minutes of brisk walking each day will improve healthy. If daily activity is not possible, that is alright since it is the amount of weekly exercise that matters most (Piercy et al., 2018). Exercise improves the mood, health and provides an overall sense of well-being. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA, 2020), exercise and other type of physical activity produce endorphins, or chemicals in the brain, that act as natural painkillers to improve sleep, thereby reducing stress.
The lifestyle change involving eating a healthy diet may be difficult to implement, but has also been demonstrated to improve a sense of well-being. Every enjoyable food does not have to be eliminated from the diet, but the incorporation of healthier food options, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains, in addition to adequate hydration, will improve overall health (Mayo Clinic, 2019). A place to start is by trying a new recipe. Recipes are available by downloading the app called Pinterest, which provides a nearly endless list of healthy, delicious recipes for nearly anyone in the family.
Our bodies do a lot for each of us each day to keep us going. To have a healthy body, it requires some self-care. Ongoing tasks such as, work, childcare, and mental and physical self-care require ample time and energy. Taking 20 to 30 minutes out of the day to de-stress in a way that is healthy and meaningful is important during the current ongoing stress in which we live. Despite the stay-at-home requirements and foregoing of large social gatherings, staying in touch with loved ones and expressing feelings will help to “let go” of some negativity we are all experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Talking out feelings and thoughts rather than harboring difficult experiences may even encourage a good laugh and provide a mutual relief of stress to a friend, family member or co-worker.
Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk. (2019, March 19). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
- (2019, March 12). 12 Tips to Tame Stress. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relievers/art-20047257
Physical Activity Reduces Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
Piercy, K. L., Troiano, R. P., Ballard, R. M., Carlson, S. A., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., George, S. M., & Olson, R. D. (2018). The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. JAMA, 320(19), 2020–2028. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.14854
- (n.d.). 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml