College of DuPage Nursing Student George Manaves wrote for Healthy Lombard that since the start of the pandemic, many Americans have been struggling with stress and depression. It is estimated that 43% of adults in the United States suffer from excessive stress (BBR Foundation). Many individuals have lost their jobs or are finding it difficult to stay motivated or prevent becoming depressed during the pandemic. Stress may contribute to long-term health effects on the body, so it is important to identify healthy strategies to manage stress. Unfortunately, many people resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms for stress relief such as, alcohol, tobacco, violence, or even resorting to other self-destructive additions. To prevent the unhealthy consequences of stress, it is important to identify ways to not only prevent but to manage the ongoing daily stressors by applying the outcomes of certain research findings from medical experts.
Many Americans underestimate just how harmful stress can be. Stress that is left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and skin problems (MedlinePlus). Stress has been found to be associated with flare-ups associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia, increase asthma attacks, eczema, acne, hair loss, cause stomach pain and discomfort, joint and muscle pain, a weakened immune system, and contribute to sickness and depression (Mayo Clinic). When the body senses threat, a chemical reaction in response to stress occurs in the body known of as the “fight-or-flight response” which acts in a way to prevent injury and facilitate fleeing from danger. The physical reaction in the body to this stress response involve an increased rate of breathing and an in increased heart rate, tightening of the muscles, and an increased blood pressure. Those who have excess stress that is unmanaged may routinely be in this mode which results in long-term physical consequences for the body.
Studies have shown that physical inactivity increases stress. Physical activity decreases stress in the short-term as well as the long-term, although many people underestimate the benefits of exercise and during the covid-19 pandemic, many Americans have become more inactive resulting in weight gain. The stay at home order issued in many states has contributed to weight gain, in addition to increased time spent in sedentary activities like surfing the internet, playing video games and watching television that also increase stress. The best strategies for managing stress include, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise. (Mayo Clinic) Other ways to manage and reduce stress includes spending time with people you enjoy, a sense of humor, and spending time doing things you enjoy. (Mayo Clinic) During this pandemic, it is important to take time to engage in some of these stress-relieving activities.