The worst part of any crisis is how it disrupts life and leaves people feeling out of control. The pandemic created so many new stressors that most people never thought they’d have to face. It even brought us to have a “Stress Awareness day of 2020.” But with all of that it’s important to learn how to manage all of your stress so it doesn’t take a toll on your mental or physical health.
Why you Need to De-Stress
Stress is your body’s reaction to harmful situations- whether they’re real or perceived. You face numerous demands every day, like taking on a heavy workload, paying the bills, and taking care of your family. Your body treats these so-called minor hassles as threats. As a result you may feel as if you’re constantly under attack.
When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, your adrenal glands release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight,” or the stress response.
Short-term stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. On the other hand, if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Some serious conditions chronic stress can lead to are-
- Heart Disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Attacks
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Skin and Hair Problems
These are some serious conditions that you don’t want to put your body through. To combat this, we’re presenting you with the top five relaxation methods to relieve the stress of 2020.
1. Optimize Your Eating and Drinking
It’s been quite the year so it’s not surprising that people may be relying on alcohol for instant relief. Alcohol is a depressant, so it doesn’t promote energy. It also disrupts your circadian rhythm, preventing you from getting good REM sleep. This is why it’s best to avoid alcohol when you’re already feeling overwhelmed. Instead of a glass of wine before bed, try valerian tea, chamomile tea, cherry juice, peppermint tea, a banana smoothie, or coconut water. Those drinks can actually improve your sleep.
Another thing that’s not doing you any favors is junk food. Refined carbs that are found in things like cookies and chips spike blood sugar and then cause it to crash, increasing stress and anxiety. Choosing healthy foods has the opposite effect, creating a favorable hormone signaling in the brain, which supports fullness, mood regulation, and sleep and energy balance.
To provide some stress relief, try incorporating these foods into your meals-
- Whole-Grain Carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice)
- Fatty Fish (tuna, halibut, salmon)
- Leafy Greens
You might have heard the term “Quarantine 15,” a phrase coined to address weight gain during the pandemic due to stress and decreased activity. To shed the extra weight you may have put on, incorporate activities such as hiking, running, or an online workout class.
Exercise can help elevate your mood, decrease joint pain, give you time to focus your energy on something positive, help you sleep better at night, and even decrease your cortisol production- melting away extra pounds and stress.
3. Practice Self-care
Intentionally schedule time into your day to focus on things that make you happy. Watch your favorite television shows, pull out those puzzles you’ve been saving for a rainy day, garden, start a journal. Any of these things will help you maintain a sense of order and purpose- which will ultimately help both your mental and physical state.
Remaining socially distant doesn’t mean you have to avoid people. It’s critical to remember that isolation can increase anxiety and depression.
Pick up the phone and call your friends and family. Use text messages, video chats, and social media to stay connected or discuss your concerns and fears. Meaningful connections and emotional support is vital to your well-being. Plus, it never hurts to gain outside perspective on your stressors.
5. Focus On What You Can Control
It’s natural to think about your stressors, that way you can better understand the situation, and try to change it. But sometimes you can slip into a type of thinking that is unproductive, overly negative, and borders on obsessive. This type of thinking is known as “rumination.” Rumination intensifies the stress you are already feeling by focusing on the negative and continually reliving it. When you’re in this pattern of thinking, your focus is more on what went wrong, when it needs to be on what you can do to fix things.
Break those bad habits of thought by practicing meditation or deep breathing. A few minutes a day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.
You can also check out this guide, ‘FACE COVID’ by Dr. Russ Harris, the author of “The Happiness Trap.” It provides you with helpful steps to effectively respond to the corona crisis.
Hopefully by practicing these methods, you will leave behind the stress of 2020 and gain a healthy, fresh outlook.