If you've been feeling stressed or anxious at any point over the past year, you're certainly not alone. When the familiarity and routine of your life changes and you're thrown into a new and unpredictable reality, it's "normal"; to feel overwhelmed. As vaccination efforts continue and we slowly begin to navigate back to something that resembles what life looked like before the pandemic the stressors of the past year may still persist. Learn how to recognize signs of stress and methods for managing them.
Symptoms of Stress
Everyone reacts to stress differently, but here are some overarching symptoms that you should look out for:
- Feeling tired, frustrated, or lacking desire or interest in things you used to enjoy
- Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Changes in appetite, or significant weight gain or loss
- Headaches, body pain, gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Finding healthy ways to cope will help you manage your feelings or physical changes that you're experiencing.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs – Throughout the pandemic many have turned to alcohol or drugs to help cope with the stress, isolation, and uncertainty. Substance abuse can lead to addiction, overdoes, and death. You should speak to a health care provider if you're feeling the urge to use these substances to cope.
- Find a friend, parent, or medical professional to discuss how you';re feeling – Virtual communities exist for different hobbies and interests and as spring and summer begin to emerge, opportunities to safely gather may become available. Telehealth visits are also available if you prefer to stay home, but require medical care. Hospitals and urgent care centers remain open for your health needs in an emergency situation.
- Limit your time watching the news or scrolling through social media platforms – The endless scrolling and non-stop newsfeeds make it hard to disconnect. Take a break and set limits to the amount of time you spend using technology.
- Eat a healthy diet and make time to exercise or explore nature – A hike or bike ride is a great way to release endorphins and help you feel better.
- Find balance between work and home - If you now work from home, create a routine that signifies the beginning and end of each work day. Make sure to take breaks to regroup and clear your mind.
Practicing meditation can lead to lower blood pressure and heart rate, less stress and anxiety, and deeper relaxation. In times like these it's important to have an outlet. While that may mean different things for everyone, if you're looking for something new (and easy) to try - this is it! Meditation can be done almost anywhere and at any time, just make sure you're in a comfortable position.
- Focus on your breath. Simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
- Follow your breath for two or three minutes. Inhale deeply so that your belly expands, and then exhale slowly so that your belly contracts. Your mind will probably wander, but try to remain focused on your breathing.
Over time you can practice new techniques and extend the time that you spend practicing meditation to maximize the benefits and rejuvenate your mind and body. There are many resources for meditation online. Visit mindful.org for more information and ideas for new techniques.