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Stressed About The CoronaVirus?

Today, as we face a global health crisis, the level of fear, worry and doubt is epidemic. Perhaps, it’s merited. Perhaps it’s not. But, in the interim, people are STRESSING and that is not helpful and does not serve you/them/us. As a matter of fact, it’s worse! Science has shown us that chronic stress undermines a healthy body and can trigger all kinds of incipient diseases and ailments, as well as accelerate an auto-immune dysfunction or a predisposition to a disease. So, at a time when we most need a resilient and strong mind, body and immune system, we are self-sabotaging by stressing! And as the stories spread, facts and information become more and more confusing, and the unknown looms closer. AND, as the worries, anxiety, and stress extend from health concerns to worries about financial well-being to restraints on the freedom to travel, to neighborhood and community suspicions, mistrust, constrictions, and hysteria.

All these well-intended efforts to control the outbreak continue, unfortunately, to result in fear, worries, and doubts that have an unintended but maleficent impact that exacerbates the health risk and perhaps, worse, exposes us to more insidious ailments . . . IT’S STRESS! According to a Fox News report, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week the global death rate from the coronavirus is above 3 percent. So, although it’s currently presumed deadlier than the flu (seasonal flu kills 0.1% of those afflicted or approximately 650,000 people worldwide) still most people infected with the coronavirus get better over time. COVID-19 has infected more than 120,000 people and killed over 4,000 worldwide. But it’s important to note a little-reported fact that roughly more than 64,000 have recovered from the virus so far. Also, a report from South Korea suggests that the WHO’s mortality rate may ignore many undiagnosed or asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus.


Clearly, this pandemic is unprecedented in its global scale. But it is somewhat reminiscent of 911 in its transformative effect on the world and humankind. We will adjust and survive under another, different paradigm. Your stress does not serve you during these uncertain times. At a time where you need your immune system working at its optimum, you may be compromising it with your worry and stress about the coronavirus.


Although, anxiety and stress are part of daily life. Stress happens many times every day and comes in a wide variety of forms. It might be the stress of juggling family, work, and school commitments. It might be health or money concerns, or relationships. In each instance where we face a potential threat, our minds and bodies go into action, mobilizing to either confront the threat (fight) or avoid the issue (flight) or deny there’s a problem (hide). Stress can be bad for your mind and body and can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and chest pain. It can produce mood problems such as depression, anxiety or sadness, as well as behavioral problems like an obsessive compulsion, anger or eating disorders.


Look at it this way, Each time/moment that you stress it’s like a paper cut or a razor cut. After years, it takes a terrible toll on your mind and body. As the world awaits more information on how to cope and continues research in hopes of discovering an antidote, it would appear that there’s not much to do but hope, fear, worry, and stress! But all of these are choices that you make whether consciously or unconsciously. But stress is a choice that can kill you! But . . . there are tools available to you.

These tools help you identify, manage and mitigate your reactivity, anxiety, and stress . . . some of these are the tools you learn/acquire from training in and practicing MINDFULNESS. Maybe if you’re less stressed and more aware, you’ll be alert to the myriad of ways that are available to maintain a healthy and resilient constitution, a calming mind and a consciousness that is less distracted and can heal and mend.


In this recent opinion piece in CNN, How to improve your chances against coronavirus Dr. James Phillips adds that [emphasis added]:


[P]eople are yearning for a sense of control in what feels like an out-of-control situation . . . folks over 60 feel as if they’re inundated with reports that they are more “vulnerable” to the effects of the virus. The patients I see . . . speak of a general sense of helplessness, as though a tidal wave is coming, and there is nothing they can do except wash their hands, try to find black-market hand sanitizer, stay home and pray. But I offer this: You are not helpless. There are other things you can do to empower yourself. First,. . . follow the public health measures being recommended . . . What else can you do to improve your odds of beating Covid-19 should you become infected? One key step: Maximize your health now . . . choose to be proactive . . . with your fullest effort, starting today. Even people without diagnosed medical problems should maximize their health. Exercise, weight loss, a healthy diet and good sleep are certainly beneficial to your body. . . . By doing these simple things . . . you have the power to improve your resilience. . . . in the face of this virus, even a very small amount of improvement in your overall health could be the difference between mild or more severe symptoms, and for some, it could mean the difference between life and death. You are not helpless. Do everything you can to not get the virus. But make sure that if you do, you are already at your strongest. Be prepared, not scared.


Here are just a few simple ways that you can reduce stress:

  • Move your body. Walk, run, exercise, do yoga. Try to move mindfully, with awareness.

  • When you feel irritated, agitated, annoyed or frustrated, take a long, slow, deep breath. Distract yourself from your agitating thoughts or feelings.

  • Practice self-care. Create space/moments throughout your day to stop/pause, climb down from the worried state of mind, and come back into the present moment. Just for a moment . . . then maybe another.

  • Schedule time for stillness and peacefulness. Relax! Start with 5 minutes every day.

  • Identify and reduce everyday stressors that create your anxiety and stress.

  • Declutter your environment and your mind. Be more organized.

  • Avoid procrastination. Make a list of all the things hanging over your head, including little annoyances, and get them done . . . just do it!

  • Evaluate and adjust/fine-tune your relationships and your reactivity to them.

  • Determine whether your work/job is making you sick and whether it’s time to make a change.

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FOOD for THOUGHT

It is fascinating that modern medicine has so many fabulous diagnostics. I was talking to a student/client recently who was recounting their experience with a blood pressure test. As I myself have experienced, the reading was high, above the recommended norm of 120/80 but not in the high alert/alarming range of 160+/90+. Nevertheless, as a precaution, the doctor wanted to prescribe medication. (That’s a topic for another conversation.) What I find fascinating is that I’ve learned that high blood pressure in and of itself is not a disease. As you probably know, it is considered a precursor to strokes and cardiac conditions. But what amazes me is that although science has irrevocably confirmed that stress has an insidious effect on the body and mind, which react with ailments, afflictions, and diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, auto-immune disorders, early-onset Alzheimer’s, obesity, asthma, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems and more.

WHAT HAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZED ME, AS I REFLECTED ON THE BLOOD PRESSURE TEST, IS THAT THERE IS NO DIAGNOSTIC TEST FOR STRESS, ALTHOUGH IT IS MUCH MORE INSIDIOUS THAN HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. PERHAPS, WE ALL NEED TO BE MORE AWARE OF STRESSORS AND STRESS AND DO THE BEST WE CAN TO MITIGATE ITS AFFECT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

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