2020 has been a year like no other. Life as we know it has been challenged. Some of us have lost our jobs and some of us had to transition to working from home. Others continue to report to the workplace, but now with added personal protection equipment and health screenings. Families are also adapting to hybrid and online school systems, leaving many parents with feelings of increased responsibility for their child’s academic progress. It is no wonder that through all of these changes, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. Many women are reporting feelings of inadequacy and guilt that they are not meeting the new expectations of society.
One thing holds true - we are all in the same boat. Every single one of us is in the process of adapting to our new “normal”, experiencing feelings of both success and failure while navigating these new waters. When stress and anxiety levels are high, there are solutions that can help ease the mind.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, one should first evaluate their habits. Handling stress with the consumption of alcohol, food, smoking or caffeine may seem like ways to reduce stress, however these methods of coping can actually increase stress levels. The body functions better when it has essential nutrients. Instead, one should consider starting a multivitamin and or a probiotic.
Developing exercise routines increase the amount of healthy endorphins that enhance mood and reduce stress. Not a runner? No problem. A short walk around the block, practicing yoga, or stretching exercises have been found to be beneficial!
Mental stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which includes the “flight or fight” mechanism and releasing hormones that can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Deep breathing exercises can weaken the sympathetic nervous system in your body while activating a relaxation response. The goal of deep breathing is to focus all of your awareness on your breathing, which can be accomplished by taking deep breaths through your nose to fully expand your lungs and abdomen. Meditation can have a similar effect in calming jumbled thoughts.
Realize that most times, stress is strongly related to how one chooses to balance their time. Examine, establish and prioritize your values. The more your actions resemble your beliefs, the better you will feel. Give yourself permission to say no, especially in times when you feel overwhelmed. Take accountability for what you can control and let go of what you cannot. It is okay to ask for help.
If you find that you are having trouble completing daily routines or you develop feelings of being overwhelmed or trapped, additional assistance may be necessary. Therapists or counselors can provide additional strategies and adjust some of the listed coping strategies to fit your needs. You may also contact your primary care provider to see if medications are right for you. As always, if you have feelings of self harm, please call your primary care provider immediately or go to an emergency department for help.
~Emily Roling, FNP-BC