Everyone responds differently to stress, whether it’s brought on by a disease outbreak, financial crisis, or some other unsettling event. In stressful situations, it’s even more important than usual to monitor and care for our mental health. Here are some helpful notes and tips on how to cope with stressful situations.
Stress Affects Each of Us Differently
Health care workers and first responders, seniors and adults living with medical conditions, those living with mental or behavioral health conditions, and anyone experiencing high levels of anxiety or fear may respond strongly to the stress of a crisis.
What’s Happening to My Body During a Stress Response?
Intensely stressful situations take a toll on the body, particularly when difficult circumstances extend over a long period. When the body goes into “fight or flight” mode, it quickly floods the bloodstream with cortisol and adrenaline. For short durations, this stress response can help you deal with difficult events. Once the moment passes, your hormone levels typically return to normal.
However, the long-term activation of the stress response can disrupt your body’s systems. Symptoms of stress often include mental states such as anxiety or depression, or physical symptoms such as back or neck pain, digestive issues, headaches, and high blood pressure. Fatigue and insomnia are also potential side effects of a long-term stress response.
How to Manage Stress
The first step in coping with stress is recognizing when you’re experiencing it. Once you’re able to identify stress in your life, you’ll have the power to choose a healthy way of dealing with it. You may want to try several techniques to find what works best for you. Even if you can’t avoid the event or thing causing your stress, you can change how you react to it.
Concentrate on the present.
A lot of stress builds up when we worry about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future, and these are often events we can't influence. Concentrate instead on present conditions you can control.
Tackle problems one at a time.
It’s easier to work out a solution to one problem than to many. Isolating problems also tends to make each one less intimidating.
Ask for help from family, friends, or professionals.
People who care about you are usually willing to lend a hand when you need it. They may also give you a different perspective on your troubles.
Set realistic goals.
Take small concrete steps to deal with tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with far-reaching goals that may not be achievable during hectic times.
How to Take Care of Your Body
Stress often suppresses your immune system, so make sure to give your body every chance to stay healthy. Taking care of your body and mind can alleviate some of the negative effects of stress. Here are a few ways to care for yourself well.
Make time for things you enjoy.
Get away from your daily stresses and engage in hobbies or other activities that help you unwind.
Plan relaxing activities.
Focus your mind and body on a calming activity. Relaxing can be as simple as deep breathing, petting your dog, or listening to a favorite song. You might also try an active relaxation practice, such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
Exercise and eat a balanced diet.
Exercise releases your nervous energy, helps boost the immune system, and improves sleep. It also distracts you from stressful situations and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Adding in a balanced diet ensures that your body gets the nutrients it needs to fight off disease.
Rely on social support.
Having the support of family and friends may be crucial to reducing anxiety. Social involvement with others will also help you avoid isolation and depression, conditions that can compound stress in unsettling times. Call a friend or set up a video chat to stay connected with others.
Reach out for help.
If stress is negatively affecting your mental or physical health, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Ebenezer has been serving seniors and their loved ones for over 100 years. With trusted experts and partners such as Fairview Health Services, we have access to a robust catalog of resources to best serve you. Please call us at 612-672-7262 if you need help.
For more senior health tips, make sure to check out the Ebenezer blog.