Helpful Suggestions for Recognizing, Managing Stress
We live in stressful times. Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we live our lives and is creating some negative stress. Yes, there are positive stressors, but as Bayhealth Primary Care Physician Cindy W. Siu, MD, explains, negative stressors have become routine in the past month and can wreak havoc if we let them.
Fear of the unknown, social isolation, changes in routine and lifestyle, and financial issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have reared their ugly heads. It’s important to pause, assess your situation and recognize if you’re stressed. Dr. Siu describes some of the physical and mental responses to negative stress and offers some suggestions for stress management.
Signs of stress:
- Physical signs of stress. “Tense or difficult situations trigger adrenaline surges. They may manifest as shakiness, increased heart rate, impaired sleep, and difficulty focusing,” she said. Other physical signs of stress may include chest pain, high blood pressure, muscle ache, and headache. Some people may experience gastrointestinal issues or change in weight – either loss or gain. “When we feel stress, it’s our body telling us we feel physical danger.” Long-term negative stress responses may result in a weakened immune system. “People may become sick more often.”
- Worry. Some of Dr. Siu’s patients have expressed worry about themselves or others. “Some patients care for elderly family members and worry about family with compromised immune systems.”
- Fear. Her patients have expressed being fearful of the virus itself, often associated with the stress of being isolated at home. “You can go outside,” she reminds people. “You don’t have to stay inside. We still encourage people to go outside for a walk, a jog, a bike ride, or to work in your garden – as long as you make sure that you stay at least six feet from others around you.”
When to seek help managing stress:
- Talk to a trusted friend. “Even a non-medical friend can be helpful,” she said. Even if you haven’t talked to someone in a long time, they are probably feeling just as stressed and isolated and would likely enjoy getting a call from you. Try to help each other find the positives and take time to laugh.
- Download an effective and free phone app. “People have limited access to counselors in this area, but many apps offer health therapies,” Dr. Siu said, noting that learning meditation and mindfulness techniques benefit some people.
- Find healthy ways to cope. Coping looks different for everyone, but some ways to cope may include exercising, practicing yoga, deep-breathing exercises, gardening, or partaking in a hobby. Identify what works for you.
- Seek professional help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might time to seek help. Dr. Siu suggests a primary care physician as a source for help. The doctor may guide you to a counselor or therapist.
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