Stress, the Pandemic and You
6 Tips for a Stress-Free Life
Stress – everyone has it. Few can escape it. Life can be demanding and as we juggle work, family, recreation and friends, often there’s not enough time in our day to fit it all in. What’s a priority? How do we choose what we must do now and what can wait? If we ignore one thing in favor of another, where does the conflict start and end? Choices, challenges, decisions, repercussions…
Add to this the pandemic and all of its demands and fears, and we have a category five stress storm applying pressure on all our support systems, overwhelming and overloading us until something must give. That something is usually our health.
The Effects of Stress
The effects of stress are felt physically, emotionally and mentally. What can cause all of this? Our natural defense mechanism of fight or flight. Now you may argue, “I don’t feel threatened to the point of thinking I must defend myself. What do you mean by fight-or-flight syndrome?” Good question.
We are wonderfully made beings with a system designed to give us extra strength and speed should we perceive we are being threatened. The key word here is “perceive.” You don’t need a mountain lion bearing down on you with fangs flaring. All you need is to feel out of your comfort zone. If you believe things may go wrong and that you may be in danger, your body will respond with a cocktail of hormones that can be a lifesaver or life-ravager.
Adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine put a strain on our entire system. Imagine if that strain was at a constant low level, flying under the radar, being ignored because we don’t realize it’s even there. Like a car with a little too much oil, eventually a gasket is going to blow. This stress can eventually lead to:
- High-blood pressure, which can lead to,
- A weakening of our organs and arteries, which can lead to,
- Malfunctioning organs that do not work efficiently, which can lead to,
- Skin problems (since our skin is our largest organ), fatigue and loss of sexual desire, and lead to,
- Diabetes, kidney issues, heart attack or even stroke.
All of this can result from a low level of pressure which has gone unchecked over a period of time.
What Can We Do?
The first thing we must do is decide to lower our stress and make no excuses in doing this. The hardest part of anything is setting a strong and realistic goal and pledging to follow through. Then, we need to choose one or two strategies to start with. If you try to do too much, it will become a self-sabotaging stressor itself. So, don’t over do it. Once you see you’ve changed a habit and are sticking to it, add another and repeat the process.
Some Strategies You Can Do
According to the Cleveland Clinic, here are some things you can do to lower your stress:
1. Eat and drink for health. Alcohol, too much caffeine and sugar may seem to help in the moment, but they are adding to the stress on our bodies. Be conscious of what you consume and at what quantities.
2. Exercise. We’ve all heard we should exercise, yet many of us don’t. It’s not just to make our muscles and bones stronger and get a beach body. Exercising helps release the pressure caused by the hormone cocktail, resulting in lower blood pressure, more energy, better sleep and sex.
3. Sleep at least eight hours a night. Lack of sleep is as bad as smoking and drinking alcohol. Our bodies repair themselves during sleep: starting with the brain which controls everything. If this maintenance isn’t done, the compounded effects will cause all sorts of health issues, as vital systems start to experience excessive wear-and-tear.
4. If you smoke, stop. Enough said on that one.
5. Manage your time wisely. If you use a daily schedule and realistically manage your tasks and weekly goals, you won’t feel so stressed since you are in control of your time. You can allocate sufficient time to do what needs to be done by prioritizing.
6. Have safety blankets in place. There are certain things that are inevitabilities, like getting sick, having to pay taxes and bills and death. While no one likes to talk about these things, ignore them at your own peril. By having insurance in place to avoid financial hardships, it gives you peace of mind and less stress. Some to consider are hospital indemnity and final expense insurance.
7. Learn to say “No.” Don’t be a people pleaser. If you can’t do it (or just don’t want to), say “No”. Learning to say “No” is liberating!
We only get one life and life is not fair. If it were, everyone would be healthy, wealthy and wise by default. So, we must work at it if we want the desired result. Let’s start with our health first by reducing our stress. After all, without good health, not much else matters.