Is the Covid-19 pandemic causing you to feel stressed?
With such widespread coverage, the 24-7 news cycle, and social media feeds jammed with coronavirus content, many of our patients are reporting that they feel overwhelmed, anxious. This is understandable, so it’s important to find ways to calm stress, naturally.
See, a 2017 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that, “Exposure to chronic stress can suppress immune function and increase susceptibility to infection.” That’s not a good combination! During this pandemic it is important to be informed; to take the right steps and follow advice. But, listening to conspiracy theories, sensational stories, and being constantly switched on can do more harm than good. It’s important we each support our mental wellbeing, especially if we are sensitive to feeling overwhelmed or already experience mental illness. We want you to stay safe and healthy and managing stress has a key role to play. These three simple steps will help you to calm your stress, naturally. Sensible engagement in news and social media Our understanding of Covid-19 and the steps we need to take continues to evolve. This makes it important that we remain up-to-date. But, being constantly immersed, as we’ve already discussed, is not helpful. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology looked at what factors, if any, influenced whether someone’s mood was affected by the news. The authors found that when daily news was perceived as more negative the viewers felt, well, more negative. The authors also observed that when negative news is personally relevant, like Covid-19 is to most of us, the negative affect was stronger. If you’re feeling stressed, it might be time to cut down the constancy of your news exposure. Stick with reputable sites for coronavirus advice: Health.gov.au, Australia.gov.au and the World Health Organisation will likely suffice. Focus on sufficient sleep Getting a good night’s sleep is often a challenge at the best of times, let alone with the added pressures and anxiety this pandemic has placed on us. How are you coping? Do you sleep well or do you toss and turn, fitful or worried? Sleep and the circadian system, our 24-hour body clock, are strong regulators of immune function. When you slumber poorly, your ability to fight foreign invaders is decreased. Poor sleep also elevates stress, which lowers immune function, too. Sufficient sleep is a simple way to calm stress and enhance immune function. To sleep well: Ensure your bedroom is dark and slightly cool, quiet and safe. Avoid blue light from TV, laptop and smartphone screens for 90 minutes prior to retiring for the night. Establish a routine; go to be and rise at the same times each day. Choose a comfortable and supportive pillow and mattress. Be physically active Covid-19 may have temporarily changed the way we live, but we are still able to be active. Unless infected and unwell, that is. Exercise is wonderful for elevating mood and, as an added plus, boosting immune function. One study found that those who engaged in Hatha Yoga were “significantly less anxious, tense, depressed, angry, fatigued, and confused.” This is great news! Yoga can be streamed so even if you’re self-isolating there is no reason you can’t be involved. Walking 45 minutes, five days per week is also ideal. If you are feeling stressed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, be gentle with yourself. There have been so many major changes, so quickly. These three steps will help you to establish much-needed calm, which is crucial to your physical and psychological wellbeing. Please, take care of your health. You matter.