The Stress in America: January 2021 Stress Snapshot that The Harris Poll did for the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that 84 percent of adults reported feeling emotions related to stress, and 80 percent said this was because of the coronavirus pandemic. The most common emotions reported were anxiety, sadness, and anger. The respondents’ average level of stress exceeded those felt since April 2020.
This is not surprising with more than half a million deaths from Covid-19 to date. People fear for their lives and those of others.
The precautions against the spread of the virus, while necessary, are also sources of stress. People who must work from home or study from home feel isolated and restricted. There is also widespread uncertainty about the economy in the face of mass layoffs and businesses closing or filing for bankruptcy. Even those who still have jobs or have a business worry that they may be the next one affected.
Effects of Stress
The APA study further shows that those who were unable to cope in healthy ways with stress in the pandemic suffered a decline in health. They either gained unwanted weight or lost too much weight, had difficulty sleeping, and drank too much alcohol. The APA expressed concern that this can lead to long-term consequences such as chronic illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees that the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic can cause overwhelming stress that makes people feel worried, afraid, sad, frustrated, angry, or numb. They experience changes in their eating patterns and energy levels. They lose interest in things and have difficulty concentrating and in decision-making.
CDC also notes that stress can have physical effects including body pains, headaches, stomach issues, and skin outbreaks. It can worsen chronic health problems and mental health conditions.
Find Stress Relief
If stress is manifesting in your body as aches and pains, massage can give you much relief. If massage clinics are open in your area, you are extremely fortunate. A professional massage therapist can provide deep-tissue massage properly to ease body pain, headaches, or chronic pain. If massage clinics are still closed in your locality, you can try stretching exercises designed to relieve the specific body pain you are feeling. You can find exercises online for back pain and even to relieve headaches.
To manage your stress levels, CDC suggests doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises distributed throughout the week, accompanied by two days of muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week.
Fast walking or jogging are examples of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises that also enable you to enjoy the fresh air and sun outdoors. It is important to bask in the sun every day for the body to produce enough vitamin D because vitamin D deficiency is linked to more severe cases of Covid-19 infection. You can also find online aerobic exercise videos that you can follow at home. They range from hip-hop dance exercises to dancing to retro music.
Muscle-strengthening exercises must work on all major muscle groups. These are your chest, shoulders, back, arms, abdominals, and legs. There are also online videos that teach muscle-strengthening exercises that do not need exercise equipment. You only use your body to do planks, pushups, squats, lunges, and more.
Another benefit of exercise is helping regulate your sleeping pattern to achieve the necessary seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. This refreshes your mind and body and strengthens your immune system against Covid-19 and other illnesses.
Both the APA and CDC recommend eating a healthy and well-balanced diet that includes a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Keep away from junk food, highly processed food, and too much sugar, salt, and alcohol. Eat three meals a day at regular times and avoid too much snacking. If you get hungry between meals, choose a healthy snack such as fruit.
The combination of regular exercise and healthy eating will also have a positive impact on weight management. According to the CDC, people who are overweight have a higher risk of needing invasive mechanical ventilation if they get Covid-19. Those who are obese have a higher risk of not surviving the disease.
CDC encourages people to find ways to unwind and engage in activities they enjoy. You can spoil yourself with new materials for your existing hobby or you can explore and learn a new hobby.
Keeping communications open with loved ones, family, and friends who live in other households is also one of the recommendations to alleviate stress. Take advantage of the various apps for video calls.
Blow Away the Blues
It is not enough to keep yourself safe from Covid-19 and its emerging variants. Indeed, you must get a vaccine as soon as possible and follow all health and safety guidelines. Beyond that, you must also protect yourself against the damaging effects of stress.
Stress is a natural response to a crisis, but you can reduce its impact. If you do not take steps to do so, the emotional, mental, and physical problems that will arise make you vulnerable not just to the coronavirus but to other diseases, as well.