Everyone experiences stress. It’s a fact of life that’s impossible to escape. Yet, during the last two years, we have been collectively and individually exposed to a systematic series of extremely unusual life changing circumstances.
Many Americans are experiencing considerable stress related to the pandemic and are also reporting higher levels of general stress than in recent years. What Hollywood has been warning us about for over three decades is now happening in real life. A "global" pandemic (or may be a scripted p(l)andemic?)!
Every aspect of our lives is being changed, from health and work to education to free speech to public service to social distancing and freedom of travel. The collective confusion does not seem to be ending soon. The negative mental health effects of the pandemic and all senseless restrictions attached to it, are serious and will be long-lasting. Individuals need to learn to cope with the extreme stress of this crisis.
While we can’t change the ever confusing circumstances we are living in at the present time, it’s important to find ways to better manage the stress and reduce its impact on our health, including brain function.
Outbursts of Anger Is Associated With Stress
High levels of stress is associated with a host of health issues, ranging from headaches and insomnia to outbursts of ANGER, drug and alcohol misuse and social withdrawal.
ANGER has significant consequences for the heart and the brain. It causes heightened levels of C-reactive protein (CRP - closely linked with inflammation, a well-known driver of aging) due to instant injection of cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline into the bloodstream. The resulting muscle tension, increased heart rate, spikes in blood pressure are risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.
The extreme anger associated with outbursts of rage increases the risk of heart attack and other significant health events. When you are in this state, your brain is no longer using the prefrontal cortex (area used for reasoning) for thought, but instead it is driven by the amygdala (the emotional center of your brain).
Chronic life stress over the long-term also causes higher blood pressure, which leads to impaired brain function, and accelerated age-related cognitive decline and increased incidence of dementia.
Even in the short-term, stress causes cognitive problems. Minor, daily stressors produce transient effects on cognition by reducing attentional resources needed for information processing, studies found. In other words, you are so stressed about an event earlier in the day that it’s difficult to focus on the task at hand.
Pandemic Related Stress Levels
The average reported stress level at the present time (December 2021) for U.S. adults related to the pandemic is 5.9. This is significantly higher than the average stress level reported in the 2019 Annual Stress in AmericaTM1 survey, which was 4.9.
Parents of young children, on average, are feeling significantly higher levels of stress than adults without young children. Parents report stressors related to education, basic needs, access to health care services and missing out on major milestones.
Confusing Government Response To Pandemic Is Source Of Stress 7 In 10 Adults
Many Americans point to the government’s response to the pandemic as a significant source of stress in their lives. The Annual Stress in AmericaTM1 survey finds that almost 7 in 10 Americans (67%) say the government response to the pandemic causes them stress. Parents again are more likely than those without children under the age of 18 to say this is a significant source of stress (74% of parents vs. 63% non-parents).
Everyday Ways To Reduce Stress
Stress is sneaky. Most of us don’t realize we suffer from stress until it manifests itself through health issues with the body or brain. Our best strategy is to stay ahead of stress, not wait for it to present itself with symptoms.
Here are a few everyday ways on reducing stress you can incorporate into your daily lives without a visit to the doctor, or medication.
Get Enough Sleep
Life improves incredibly when you get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Go to bed and get up at about the same time.
Make your bed comfortable.
Arrange pillows so you have a good sleep position throughout the night.
Keep the bedroom dark and quiet (no TV or cell phone).
One way to reduce the tension and stress is to learn relaxation techniques.
Take time each day to listen to relaxing soft music.
Listen to music at 528 hz pitch (search on Youtube for music at this pitch) which is proven to have calming, centering, and energizing effects on the mind.
Practice deep breathing as you sit quietly.
Incorporating meditation and yoga into your life.
Bad Habits Add To Stress
Over the decades, we all develop bad habits that rove hard to shake. There are the ones everyone knows about, such as smoking or consuming too much alcohol. But other bad habits can include eating too much unhealthy food or drinking too much caffeine (especially later in the day). At the time, they all might seem to help with stress, but in truth they add to it. The best gift you can give yourself is to drop unhealthy habits.
Don’t Hold It In
If your stress is caused by something that was said or done either to or by you, address the situation as quickly as possible. The old advice for married couples about not going to bed angry or upset still applies and extends to friends and other relationships. Simply talking about an issue releases stress and makes a person feel better.
Learn to Say “No”
It’s impossible to satisfy everyone or meet all the demands and expectations of everyone equally in your life. Learn when to say, “No.” Practice assertiveness and do it in such a way that you respect others while also standing up for your own rights.
Identify the things in life that are causing stress, and then reduce and gradually eliminate them. Time management is a challenge for many. People get overwhelmed with everything they must do on any given day. The best way to manage your time is making schedules, and giving yourself ample time to complete each task.
Regular exercise works the muscles in your body, which leads to tension release, better sleep and improved digestion. Walking, riding bike and swimming are low impact exercises we strongly recommend.
Unfortunately, stress isn’t something that will completely disappear. But until you can live in a water house in Fiji or buy coastal property in Belize, you can put some of the above ideas into practice and get your stress down to manageable levels.
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