Stress Awareness Day is traditionally observed on April 16th, the day after tax day. Tax day has been postponed this year until July, but being aware of stress and how it is affecting us–especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic–is especially important.
Our world is operating in a state of chronic super stress and unfortunately no one is immune to it. It’s important to arm ourselves with information and strategies to combat the effects of super stress on our bodies and our brains. The outbreak of COVID-19 has been extremely stressful for many people. The uncertainty and change in routine can be overwhelming and can cause strong emotions for people. Learning to cope with stress effectively will help you, your families, and your friends be stronger and more resilient in the long run.
Different people respond to stress differently depending on their circumstances. Some people who may find themselves less able to cope with stressful situations, especially in a crisis can include:
• People with chronic disease who are at higher risk
• Children who don’t necessarily understand the changes they’re experiencing
• People on the front lines such as healthcare workers, first responders and other essential workers
• People who are already experiencing mental health concerns
Recent information has also found that women and men are responding to the stress of the Coronavirus outbreak differently. According to kff.org, women are more likely to experience stress during times of crises. They worry more about their families and loved ones. Their routines are more likely to be interrupted as opposed to men. Women are also more likely to report making the changes necessary to get us through the coronavirus epidemic, which adds to their stress quota. And as this situation lasts longer and longer, the stress response is getting more severe as seen below.
Stress is common–so common that many of us accept that it’s the norm, but it shouldn’t be. At BrainTap we have made it our mission to help you learn to take control of your body and learn the relaxation response, so that you can take control of stress before its damaging effects are felt. The good news is, even if we have a habit of allowing stress to rule our lives, we always have the option of choosing a new way of thinking. We are in control of our thoughts and actions more than we allow ourselves to believe.
What are the warning signs that stress is becoming unmanageable?
Some of the psychological and emotional signs that stress is getting out of control are:
• Increased feelings of depression or anxiety
• You find yourself easily angered, irritable or restless
• Feeling overwhelmed by simple things
• Feeling unmotivated or unfocused
• Constant feeling of worries
• Loss of appetite
• Inability to sleep or sleep well
The most important thing you can do when you feel stress becoming overwhelming is to take immediate steps to care for yourself. Stress causes muscle tightening, higher blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth and can lead to heart disease, depression and a lowering of the immune system–something no one can afford to experience in our current times.
What Can I Do?
There is no way to avoid stress completely in our lives. But there are several things we can do to combat stress to keep it from getting out of control. Below are some simple steps you can take to decrease the negative effects stress can have on your body and brain:
- Exercise. When you feel stress begin to build up, with the correlating muscle tightening and uneasy stomach, get moving. A walk around the block, a jog, taking the dog for a walk, a quick aerobic session, whatever your thing is–just do it. This will release feel good chemicals called endorphins that help relieve stress. Endorphins act as natural painkillers and improve your ability to get good sleep, which reduces your stress. Exercise maintains mental fitness and reduces fatigue, improves alertness and helps cognitive functioning.
- Meditate. Taking time to collect your thoughts and center yourself will help you remain calm and focused during turbulent times. Meditation has grown in popularity as of late, but the practice has been around for a very long time. Throughout the day our bodies are conditioned for fight or flight when stress occurs. If we’re actually in danger, this reaction is helpful, however staying in this state for long periods of time can be damaging to our health. Meditation gives us the opposite effect of fight or flight. It triggers the body’s relaxation response and restores calm so the body can repair itself. BrainTap is uniquely positioned to help people who want the benefits of meditation through the use of brainwave entrainment. Our BrainTap Pro App provides the benefits of meditation without effort on the user’s part. Our positive guided meditations help the listener learn the relaxation response, so that, in times of stress, calming your body and mind easily and naturally becomes automatic. Click HERE for more information.
- Distract Yourself. Read a book, have a cup of tea, play a game, pet your dog, listen to music that makes you happy. These are all calming and soothing activities that can help you alleviate stress. And if you find yourself wanting to dance it out, here is a LIST of the best songs to reduce stress according to Huffington Post.
- Breathe. According to University of Michigan Health, deep breathing is a great way to lower stress in the body. Being conscious of our breathing and regulating our breathing when we’re stressed can send signals to the brain to calm down, slow down and relax. The brain then passes that message to the rest of the body. The heart slows, blood pressure lowers, and you relax. When you feel stress beginning to affect your body physically take a moment to take a few deep, relaxing breaths.
How Can I Help Others?
Once you have a handle on your own stress, spread the love. Everyone feels stress and sharing what works for you is a great way to help others alleviate their own stress. Children especially need our guidance on how to deal with stress in manageable ways. Some helpful things you can do:
• Talk about it. Many people don’t want to burden others with how they’re feeling but letting it go and getting perspective is a great way to help people get a handle on how they’re feeling. Be a good listener and work together.
• Share How You Cope. Once you’ve found successful ways to deal with your stress, don’t be afraid to share those ideas with someone else. You may help them more than you know.
• Be Supportive. It’s not helpful to tell someone that they shouldn’t feel the stress they’re feeling. It’s also not helpful to urge them to ignore it or get over it. Being supportive and caring goes a long way to helping someone feel comforted and heard, which reduces stress.
• Create an environment for Stress Management. This is especially important in our homes during this time of isolation. Reduce the amount of social media and news you’re watching if it stresses you out. Promote quiet and calming activities such as reading and ensure that everyone is getting enough rest at night. It’s easy to fall out of routine at times like this but it’s vitally important that you and your family get good, restful sleep each night. BrainTap is a great tool for improving sleep habits as well. The lights, sound, vibration and guided visualizations prepare your brain for the deep, restful sleep it needs and retrains your brain to sleep deeply–just like you did when you were a child.
Stress is a silent killer. It serves a purpose in our make-up to keep us from harm, but staying in a stressed state constantly, day after day is a problem. Stress Awareness Day is a time for us to be aware of the stress in our lives and how it is affecting us. Take a look at your stress levels and how you deal you’re able, or not able, to cope, and make the changes necessary to reduce the risks stress can cause. The best way to observe Stress Awareness Day is to do what you can to reduce the stress in your life in healthy and positive ways.