Lockdown may be a thing of the past and most mask restrictions have lifted, but the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect us as we transition back to regular life. A full year of working remotely, learning online, and staying home from social events has taken a toll on people of all ages. Maybe you’re also dealing with the pain of losing a loved one or overcoming Covid yourself. All these emotional stressors create a challenging mental health situation for even the most well-adjusted adult.
Symptoms of stress
Stress can affect our lives in ways we aren’t expecting. Sometimes, it can take a while for a person to realize that their new behaviors are caused by stress. If you’re like most of us, you’ve likely experienced at least a few of the following symptoms:
- Negative feelings including fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite (this includes eating more or eating less than usual)
- Fluctuating energy levels
- Difficulty sleeping
- Struggling to concentrate or make decisions
- Worsening of chronic physical or mental health conditions
- Newly developed body pains, such as headaches, stomachaches, or skin rashes
- Increased use of drugs including tobacco and alcohol
It’s common and understandable to feel stressed during the regular busyness of modern life, and even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic. The second half of this year marks a big transition as employees begin working in the office again and children return to school for in-person learning. Vaccines have helped people to feel safer from the disease, but uncertainty lingers as people gather in large groups once again. No matter what stage of transition you’re in, there are tried-and-true methods to improve your stress levels.
How to cope with stress
Stress isn’t fun to deal with, but there are many healthy methods to help you prevent it from taking over your life.
- Improving your physical fitness also boosts your mental health at the same time. It’s the ultimate two-for-one combo. Moving your body – which can include something easy like a moderately paced walk – releases endorphins that help you feel happy. WebMD recommends building your workout regiment up to 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of a vigorous activity each week.
- Practice deep breathing
- Consciously taking deep breaths by filling your lungs with air and completely expelling it sends signals to your body to slow down and relax. Deliberately inhaling and exhaling calms your mind as well by helping you focus on a simple task.
- Talk about it
- If something is bothering you, talk about it with a friend, family member, religious mentor, or therapist. When we say our problems or worries out loud, we often realize that they’re manageable and that people are available and ready to help us. Chances are good that other people are experiencing the same or similar troubling feelings as you, and it’s comforting to know you’re not alone.
- Write in a journal
- Writing uncomfortable feelings down in a journal (or typing them on a computer screen) can help us release them. This technique is especially useful if you’re not comfortable sharing your thoughts with someone else; no one needs to see your journal if you don’t want them to.
- Eat well
- Maintaining your physical health is important to managing stress, and that starts in the kitchen. Choose whole foods as often as possible. Stock a pretty bowl with colorful in-season fruit for easy snacking. Strawberries, apricots, bananas, and blueberries taste yummy and look cheery, too. Try to forego processed foods in favor of homecooked meals as often as possible, even if it’s something as simple as a bowl of wild rice and a handful of sautéed vegetables.
Stress is something all of us experience and must learn to overcome. Stay alert for the early signs, and you’ll curb the issue before it becomes a real problem.