Decoding the Pandemic Stress
Feeling stressed out during the current pandemic scenario is prevalent across generations and cultures. As the news keeps pouring in new information every hour, it can be overwhelming and turn into a possible source of stress, anxiety and fear for many. The stressors can be in the form of social, emotional, physical, academic or financial issues, or all of these together.
However, prolonged exposure to stress can exhaust us emotionally while having physical repercussions too. It does carry the potential to weaken our immune system gradually. Since these challenging times are shaped by uncertainty, learning skills to manage stress, inevitably, becomes the need of the hour. Before understanding ways to manage stress, let us first burst the myths surrounding it.
Myth: Stress is caused by external events, like the lockdown.
Fact: Stress is an individual’s subjective reaction; the possible role of external factors is limited. In my personal opinion, stress lies in the mind of the beholder. For instance, while some get overly anxious to work under pressure, others thrive on it.
Myth: Stress is ALWAYS bad.
Fact: Not all types of stress are bad. Yes you heard me right; in fact, we also a name for ‘good stress’ which is labeled as ‘Eustress.’ Research points out too that we all require some level of stress to push us towards our goal. Imagine having zero exam stress, perhaps most of us would have not studied!
Myth: Stress is just a psychological phenomenon, and not physical one.
Fact: Yes stress does involve emotional distress and shift in moods, but headaches, acidity, lack of sleep, fatigue are some of the physical signs of stress. Moreover, physiological symptoms are a reflection of those emotional signs which we keep ignoring for long.
Myth: Stress affects only the weaker ones.
Fact: Stress can be experienced by all. In the current situation, the source of stress might be different, but irrespective of how mentally and/or physically strong you have been so far, the possibility of getting in grip of distress cannot be denied.
In the light of these myths and facts let us further explore ways to manage stress especially during the pandemic.
1. Physical workout
Physical exercises release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormone, which can elicit a positive mood making us feel calm and relaxed. Aerobics, stretching exercises at home, or walking/jogging in your building premise, climbing stairs are few of the activities one can indulge in. Practicing Yoga also comes handy not just for physical wellness but for relaxing us mentally as well. A daily chore like cleaning the house or cooking doesn’t exactly fit into physical exercise. For more workout ideas at home, Internet can be resourceful.
2. Exposure to sunlight
As compared to the pre-lockdown period, stepping out of our houses have reduced drastically. This also indicates lesser exposure to sunlight which affects serotonin levels in our brain. Serotonin is a hormone responsible for enhancing our mood, helping us stay calm and focused. Research also shows that reduced or no exposure to sunlight has a role to play in developing depressive symptoms. Thus, walking up to the terrace or taking a walk within the residential premise, exposing to daylight sun for 10-15 minutes a day can prove to be beneficial.
3. Quick breaks
However busy our day looks, doing daily chores or work from home, studying or watching Netflix, taking quick breaks on short intervals helps our brain and body rejuvenate. It breaks the monotony, gives time to relax and replenish. Taking breaks from overdose of media and news can also safeguard us against burnouts. Avoid multitasking as it can add up to the existing stress and anxiety.
4. Emotional expression
Communicating feelings becomes of utmost importance moreover during the current challenging times. Bottling up our feelings and thoughts can be emotionally draining and can affect our overall wellness. Connecting with a family member or a friend or a mental health professional can facilitate the process of catharsis. As a self-help tool, journaling becomes helpful; writing down every thought that surfaces can bring out a lot of buried emotions which aren’t healthy. Moreover, the inanimate character of a journal offers a safe platform to express and vent out as well.
5. Petting animals
A plethora of studies indicate that petting animals release oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone, which reduces the cortisol levels in our body, making us feel happy; it is the same hormone secreted during a mother-baby interaction. This indicates that interacting with animals in our close vicinity can act as a stress buster. Moreover, during the pandemic, animals are the safest of all living beings to indulge in social interaction with.
6. Setting boundaries
Being quarantined with family or friends or colleagues or roommates can get overwhelming at times as we aren’t used to being with them at a stretch for this long. It is absolutely fine to mark a boundary and letting others know what makes us feel uncomfortable. Setting up healthy boundaries - physical, emotional, financial and spiritual, will not only help us during these challenging times, but also in days to follow.
These are some of the easiest ways to bring in a sense of normalcy amidst the pandemic outbreak. While there isn’t much that we can do to change the situation or the uncertainty surrounding it, following the above mentioned tips can help us relieve stress at our personal level for sure.
(The author is a Ph.D. Psychology, MBA-HR and Developmental Psychologist, Clinical hypnotherapist, and Arts Based Therapy Practitioner. Views expressed in the article are her own)