Stress. The stress we experience during an infectious disease outbreak such as COVID-19 is immeasurable and we won't know the toll it will take for a few years. The effects that stress can have on the body vary from person to person and manifest in different ways.
Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressures and the body's response to it.
Since each of us has a different perception of stress and handle stressors differently it makes stress a high subjective feeling and something that can only be measured by the individual.
The first step is understanding your stress and how it affects you is understanding the different types of stress and what they look like in your life.
Types of Stress
Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body's response to it, on the other, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory (Psychologytoday.com).
The best way to understand your stress and how it affects you is to understand the different types of stress:
Acute Stress: This is the most severe type of stress and it demands an immediate reaction to a new challenge or event. Keep in mind that this is not always bad stress. You can experience this type of stress after a ride on a rollercoaster or from a traumatic event like a car accident.
Episodic Acute Stress: This is the frequent occurrence of acute stress. Those that have this type of stress are often anxious, irritable, or have a short temper.
Chronic Stress: This is constant stress that doesn't go away easily. This type of stress can be harmful to your health over an extended period of time.
Physical Stress: This type of stress is not always bad stress but can be if it is harmful to the body. It can occur from exercise which is why you need rest days or from an injury that causes trauma to the body.
Psychological Stress: This type of stress refers to the emotional and psychological reactions experienced when an individual comes across a situation. It can include emotional fears, frustration, sadness, anger, and grief.
Stress during an outbreak like COVID-19 can cause us to experience one or more of these kinds of stress over time. Here are some common signs from the Center for Disease Control that you may be experiencing hidden stress:
Fear of your own health and the health of the ones you love
Fear of your financial situation or job
Changes to your sleep or eating patterns
Having a hard time concentrating or falling asleep
Worsening of your mental health
Increase in alcohol consumption
How to Take Care of Yourself During a Time of Stress
Taking care of your own mental and physical health during a time of greater stress like a pandemic is essential. It may seem like a stress relief to take care of others but don't forget to look after your own health and wellbeing.
Here are our top seven ways to look after your mental and physical health:
Know what to do. Knowing what to do if you or one of your loved ones should become sick
is important. Create a list of important numbers and information you would need and put it on the fridge. Having is readily available will help you think clearly and save you time.
Take care of your emotional health. This one is a biggy. This will help you think clearly and use your best judgment no matter the situation that arises. Try meditating when you're feeling overly stressed, take time away from the news and social media, or talk to someone you trust.
Take care of your body. This is something that you can control during a pandemic and will benefit you in the long term. Focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and limiting your alcohol consumption.
Connect with others. Share your feelings and concerns about what is going on with those that you trust. Continuing to maintain healthy relationships and spending time with those you love will help you stay connected and feel supported.
Take breaks. Keep a regular schedule and schedule in your breaks. Bonus if you get up and get moving during your break. Try a quick walk around the block, going up and down the stairs a few times, or stretching for five minutes.
Stay informed. Get your information from credible up to date officials. Be aware of rumors and try to stay away from social media updates. Lastly, always check sources to ensure they are reliable.
Avoid too much exposure. Seeing and hearing about the crisis repeatedly can be upsettings and overwhelming. Try to do as many normal things as the pandemic will allow and take breaks from reading the news. Get the facts and then unplug.
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