By: Amanda Wiegert, LMHC, NCC
So many of us are feeling an increase in stress because of COVID-19 and how it has affected our daily lives. Stress happens when our body tries to react to an adjustment or change in our lives. It can present itself physically, mentally, or emotionally and often times we will experience stress in all three of those areas simultaneously.
Stress can sometimes be a motivator for us to push through adversity but other times it is simply overwhelming and we are left feeling inundated with anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and frustration. When this stress takes over, many systems in our body are affected including our adrenal glands, immune system, and inflammation, to name a few.
It is important to work on decreasing stress as much as possible to allow our body’s immune system to stay healthy and be ready to fight off infection if it needs to.
Here are a few ways that you can begin to lower your stress and in turn support a healthy immune system until COVID-19 is contained:
Take care of your body.
When our stress levels increase, we tend to put our health on the back burner. During these times it is especially important to focus on eating healthy and balanced meals, getting adequate sleep, exercising, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.
Often times we use stress as an excuse to over eat, under eat, or simply eat the wrong types of foods. Combine this with sleepless nights and your gym being closed and we now have the perfect environment for your adrenal glands to be over functioning and your immune system to be suppressed.
Make sure that you are eating foods that are nutrient dense and provide vitamins and minerals to support your body’s immune system. Getting 8 hours of sleep at night will also give your body time to rest and repair.
Going for a walk outside will not only get your blood flowing, but it will allow you to breathe fresh air into your lungs and spend some time outside of the home that you have been isolating in for days or weeks at this point.
Put down your phone and turn off the TV.
We have all been consumed with the COVID-19 news stories and the opinions that those around us post freely on social media. While the news can provide us with helpful information on how to proceed and what precautions need to be taken, it can also become very overwhelming and difficult to process.
Make sure that you are taking time to turn off the tv, close your Facebook app, or even turn off your phone completely. Repeatedly hearing about COVID-19 can be very upsetting and in turn can contribute to increased stress levels.
Connect with your support system.
The term “social distancing” has become an all too familiar phrase to us lately. While social distancing is very important to keep ourselves and those around us safe, it does not mean that we must completely disconnect from the important people in our lives.
Sure, you may not be going to the office and interacting with your co-workers and you may have had to skip the monthly get together with your best friends but there are ways to bring some of those things to life even during this time of being forced to isolate.
Try getting your friends together for a virtual happy hour or dinner party. Use a program such as Skype, Facetime, or Zoom to chat with your coworkers and catch up about projects that you are working on. Talking to others, smiling, laughing, and communicating are all proven to help release endorphins and reduce stress.
Find things that help you relax.
Mindfulness and relaxation are not only good for our mental health, but they also a very important part of keeping our physical body strong and healthy. Allowing your body time to relax will help regulate your stress hormones and relieve the pressure on your immune system.
Practices like meditation and yoga are excellent for reducing inflammation and helping with increased circulation in the body. They both also help to calm our nervous system which can be overactive when we have been in a state of fight-or-flight as many of us have for the last few weeks.
Challenge yourself to find 10-15 minutes in your day to do something relaxing. You won’t regret it!
This pandemic is something that most of us have never experienced and therefore we are unsure of how to react or what steps to take. Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself some grace.
Do not lose sight of your mental, physical, and emotional health just because you are feeling overwhelmed. Choose one thing each day that you are going to focus on for YOURSELF. You are important and your mind and body will thank you for giving yourself some extra love.
If you feel as though you could benefit from some additional support during this stressful time, we are here to help. Call Life Counseling Solutions at (407) 622-1770 to be connected to one of our counselors that specialize in helping you to cope with stress and significant life changes.
About the Author: Amanda is passionate about helping people navigate all stages of life. She believes great healing can emerge from trauma and challenges if we allow ourselves to be open to learning and exploring new ways of dealing with difficult life experiences. Read more about Amanda.