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Yes, Its Stressful, but You’ve Got This!

By: Tracy Stodart

There’s no denying, this is stressful time for most of us. COVID-19 is changing the way we work, socialise, travel, access healthcare, exercise, shop and live. Many people are feeling anxious, stressed and worried.

Our fight or flight response is doing its utmost to protect us, triggering a cascade of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol, that surge through the entire body.These hormones increase heartbeat and the circulation of blood to support quick action, mobilize fat and sugar for immediate energy, focus attention

to track the danger, prepare muscles for movement, and more.

This response to stress has served us well in the past; helping us to resolve short-term, life-threatening problems.  However, prolonged or repeated stress, common in times like these, can have harmful physical and psychological consequences, including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

Fortunately, while we’re not that familiar with COVID-19, we are no strangers to stress and lots of great research exists to help us mitigate its negative effects. Melanie Greenberg, writing for Psychology Today, outlined 6 proven ways to reduce the negative effects of stress;

  1. Slow Down 

With everything happening so quickly, we’re not always getting time to relax, rest and recover before the next challenge appears.  One way to compensate is to take 5-10-minute mental breaks throughout the day and try to notice any signs of tension and worry in your mind.  By consciously asking ourselves what the wisest thing to do isand progressing toward this helpsus to be more mindful and this is great for managing stress. Meditation is another tool; there are some great apps to help with this, e.g. Calm or Headspace.  Research shows that mindfulness interventions can lower your blood pressure and help your brain deal with stress more effectively.

  1. Exercise

Walking, or any other aerobic exercise Aerobic exercise, has many stress-relieving benefits. Studies show that it combats the effects of chronic stress by enhancing mood, helping you sleep and lowering blood pressure.

  1. Connect with Nature 

A recent study by Stanford researchers showed that walking in parkland reduces anxiety and worry more than walking on a busy street and had cognitive benefits as well. In another study, stressed students that were shown pictures of empty pathways and trees had faster cardiovascular recovery from stress than those shown pictures of urban scenes with cars and people.

  1. Smile 

A study by Kraft and Preston at the University of Kansas showed that smiling, even a fake smile, helps you resist stress. The researchers found that moving your facial muscles to form a smile sends a message to your brain that can influence your mood and lower your heart rate.

  1. Stand Upright

Standing in an upright pose, as opposed to slouching, can help manage stress.  A study in the Health Psychology Journal showed that great posture helped those under stress perform better, have less fear and have a more positive mood.  They were also less self-conscious. So, the next time you’re under stress, get tall.

  1. Think of Stress as a Positive Challenge 

A study in 2012 found that our attitude to stress is important and that we can learn to be more positive.  Managers from a large bank were shown either a video showing the negative effects of stress while the other group saw a video promoting stress as positive. Those who viewed the positive clip reported 23% less stress and were more engaged, happier and healthier.

So, if you’re feeling stressed, here’s the thing to do;

Walk tall through a park for 5-10 minutes, smiling to yourself whilst trying hard to see the stress as positive!

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