In more primitive times, stress played a key part in human survival. The ability to react quickly to life-or-death threats helped man avoid hungry predators and live to thrive another day. Today, the chances of coming face to face with a tiger looking for breakfast are slim. Yet stress continues.
The COVID-19 virus and its spread around the world, including in Northwest Indiana, has caused a new level or different type of stress for most of us.
Anything that disrupts the even keel of your life can be a source of stress, otherwise known as a stressor. When you perceive a threat, the mind sends a signal to a part of the brain called the amygdala, triggering a series of chemical reactions designed to help you flee from or fight back against the source of stress. Your heart rate goes up, oxygen intake increases, and sugars and fats flood into your bloodstream, preparing your body to react.
In an emergency, those reactions could save your life. Unfortunately, the amygdala doesn’t know the difference between being held up by a robber and waiting in a long line for a latte, and that’s where the problem lies.
Being in a constant state of fight or flight is not good for you. A steady diet of stress and the hormones it triggers, such as adrenaline and cortisol, can lead to serious health concerns.
Stress is linked to physical, emotional and social issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, obesity, skin conditions, immune deficiency and memory problems, and can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, infertility and even premature aging.
A doctor can help identify chronic stress and suggest options for stress management that may include seeing a mental health professional, developing new techniques for handling stressors or taking medication.
You can change the way you react to stress and reduce your likelihood of having stress-related health issues.
Being physically active on a regular basis helps channel stress. Try working out while self-isolating at home to express your urge to “fight” or go for a run or walk while maintaining social distancing to see how “flight” feels. Exercise may also help you become more confident and less nervous.
Cultivate strong social relationships with people who matter to you, even if you can’t see them in person. Human connection helps relax the nervous system, reducing stress and your reaction to it.
Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are techniques that can help you calm a stress reaction. Done regularly, they help to improve mood and lower anxiety, giving you new tools to relate to life and stressors.
Feeling anxious or overwhelmed? This is normal right now. However, some of us are having a difficult time controlling these feelings. Talk with your doctor about how to get back on track.
To make an appointment with a primary care provider, visit porterphysiciangroup.com. All Porter Physician Group physicians and nurse practitioners are now offering telehealth appointments which allow both new and existing patients to get care without leaving home; an effort to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
This is a public service message from Porter Regional Hospital