With the recent outbreak of the Corona Virus and the pandemic we now find ourselves in, many people may be finding that they feel more anxious or stressed than usual.
But what is stress ?
Stress is how our body copes with a perceived or real threat. It is at this time that the adrenal glands located at the top of your kidneys, release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol which then flood through the body. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases glucose (sugars) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation to try to protect your body as much as possible. These hormones also communicate with parts of the brain which control your mood, motivation and fear. These are normal reactions to help us cope with stressful situations.
Small amounts of stress can in fact be positive for us, but too much stress, if left untreated can have a detrimental effect on our body and make us ill.
Are you stressed ?
Perhaps you do not think you are stressed, but I would encourage you to pause for a few moments and really take time to think deeply about how you are feeling. Stress doesn’t always show itself in obvious ways that we are all aware of, such as anxiety and depression, but can also show itself in many other ways such as:
Stress targets the weakest part of our body or character i.e. if you are prone to dry skin and eczema, this will flare up during times of stress.
It is said that the average brain has 50,000 thoughts every day and, for most people, 70% of them are negative. In this difficult time that we find ourselves in, it is fair to think that this figure will be even higher.
Stress isn’t avoidable, especially at the moment when everywhere we turn there is talk about the Corona Virus, it is on our social media, on the news, on the TV and radio and is a common subject when we speak to our friends and family.
How can we deal with stress ?
Mental Health First Aid England say we all have a “stress container”, imagine a bucket for instance. Your stress container is individual to you and will reflect how vulnerable to stress you are. Factors such as your genetics, life experiences and your environment impact on how large or small your container is.
For example if you are quite vulnerable to stress, your container will be smaller and may overflow more quickly compared to someone who is less vulnerable to stress and who therefore has a larger stress container.
Now imagine things that cause you to become stressed go into our bucket, for example finances, work and health. (these stresses can be large or small and will be different for everyone). All of these stresses are added to the container and the more stress we are under the quicker our bucket fills up. It is when our bucket becomes so full of stress and it overflows that we see problems develop such as those which we have mentioned above.
There is a way to reduce the bucket filling up and hopefully from over flowing and that is to release the tap. We can do this by using helpful coping strategies such as going for a walk, reading a book, watching a film or talking to someone. These will be different for everyone, you need to do what works best for you to help you de-stress and to relax.
Try not to turn to unhelpful coping strategies such as alcohol, eating too much, or smoking as this can cause the tap to become “rusty” i.e. stresses will be unable to flow out as effectively and your bucket will be at risk of overflowing.
If we turn the tap and release some of the stress inside the bucket, we can cope with more stress being placed in the bucket without it overflowing.
So what else can we do to help us deal with this stress in a more manageable way ?
Try our 5 tips to help you manage your stress:
- Get moving to reduce ailments and stay focused – although at this time we are only allowed out once per day try to make the most of this time even if you just go out for a walk.
- Good posture promotes a positive mind and body – if you are working from home try to set your desk / laptop up as well as you can to prevent muscle strain. If you are relaxing in front of the TV try not to slouch.
- Get quality rest time and unplug from technology – this is important all the time, but even more so at the moment with Corona Virus being in the media so much. Turn your phone off at least 2 hours before bed and if you can, try to reduce your time on social media and technology during the day too.
- Eat less processed food and drink water – it might be hard to get hold of food at the moment which may be causing you a lot of stress but we can still try to eat as healthily as we can. Try not to comfort eat or turn to sweet treats and stay hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the day.
- Positive touch helps to switch off stress – reach out to those you live with, it’s amazing how much a hug can help !
And lastly, BREATHE !
Very often, when we become stressed we shallow breathe, inhaling through our mouth, holding our breath and taking in less air. This can quickly become a habit. But why is this a problem ? When we shallow breathe, we use the muscles in our shoulders, neck and chest to expand the lungs. Over using these muscles can cause neck pain and headaches as well as cause our posture to become rounded.
However when we breathe from the diaphragm, this helps to lower blood pressure, reduce our heart rate, relax our muscles and increase our energy levels. Also having a good posture will not only encourage you to breathe better but will also help you feel more positive and productive! Overall breathing from the diaphragm can help to alleviate stress !
There are many breathing techniques that you can do but here is one example which is easy to remember:
- Take a deep breath in for the count of 4
- Hold for the count of 4
- Breathe out for a count of 4
- Hold for the count of 4 before starting again.
You can do this breathing technique anywhere and the best thing is people will not even notice that you are doing it, so the next time you feel yourself becoming stressed, anxious or overwhelmed why not give it a try. It is especially useful to aid falling asleep.
I hope this blog has helped and you are able to use our tips to reduce your stress levels.
Take care and stay safe in this difficult time.