Just How Stressed Are We Really About Covid?
There seems to be a lot of talk about the “stress” of this 14 to 15-month long pandemic. And, yes, it has caused a lot of inconvenience. It has forced us to stop doing many of the things that make life fun, like visiting with friends and travelling to see family. And, most of us are bored by having to continue to observe all the safety precautions. However, inconvenience and boredom are not really the same as “stress” that has measurable and observable physiological and emotional effects on our bodies and minds.
One way to describe stress could be that state in which our worries, fears, anxieties or simply thinking (targeted mental activity) causes our bodies to produce cortisol and other stress hormones, which can cause physical damage if that state becomes chronic. In other words, true stress comes from the type of mental activity that activates our Sympathetic Nervous System, in particular the “fight or flight” mechanism. It becomes “stress” when our Autonomic Nervous System’s Parasympathetic Nervous System loses its ability to balance or cancel the Sympathetic Nervous System and put the ANS into a state of rest. That occurs when a person is chronically worrying and/or thinking and rarely engages the Parasympathetic Nervous System to rest or unwind.
Is that happening to most of us because of Covid? Yes, it is for some but perhaps not for all of the humans in the world. Some people who have lost loved ones or friends are likely experiencing bereavement and grief, maybe even deepening into a depression. Others are experiencing isolation, particularly if they live alone and are trying to remain apart from others for fear of catching the disease. The loneliness and inability to talk about our anxieties and fears with others can mushroom into a true physiological stress reaction. Others may have lost their jobs or found their income cut. Fear for personal safety and worry about finances are definite causes of stress.
The CDC has posted information on the ways that the stress of the pandemic is affecting people’s lives. CDC is recommending that people learn to cope with stress in healthy ways, like taking breaks from watching TV news and iPhone information about the pandemic, much of which is anxiety producing. They recommend reaching out by phone and other means, like Zoom, to talk to friends, family and others. And, most of all, take time to unwind, doing things that work for you, like exercising, meditating, listening to music.
Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you and those around you become more resilient.