Chances are pretty good that, unless you are living disconnected in the wilderness, you have a bit of stress in your life right now. You are definitely not alone. There are so many people right now experiencing job loss or layoffs, childcare issues, financial strain, and educating their kids from home. This on top of the normal things in life like relationships, parenting, keeping the house clean (which is an extra challenge with more people home all the time), etc.
If you are feeling stressed, I’m not surprised.
And while we might realize we are stressed, ignoring it and moving forward is not generally the best option. Stress (whether brought on by things we can’t control or self-made) can be really hard on the body. Today I’m going to talk about some of the ways stress can affect your body, but keep reading, because I’m also going to talk about how to combat stress and reduce the effects of it.
Constant stress sets off the fight or flight response in your body. Unfortunately, this happens whether we are running for our life, or we lose our job, have relationship issues, or are losing our minds trying to help our kids do virtual school by relearning geometry & pre-calculus after 24 years (raises hand). 🙂
When stress happens occasionally, your body reacts and goes back to normal. But when there is a constant stress response from our body, it can weaken your immune system, which can make you more susceptible to illnesses. This is obviously not what we want right now!
As mentioned above, stress starts that fight or flight, which releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These are normal reactions to stress that help our bodies react as they need to handle a situation.
In the case of chronic stress, these hormones are continually released and eventually, it gets to the point where the body can not recover properly. This results in many issues, including fatigue & that burnout feeling.
In addition to stress reduction (which I go into below), be sure to eat a well-rounded diet filled with whole foods, lots of veggies, protein, & healthy fats. Keep refined carbs & sugars to a minimum as this will help keep your blood sugar more stable.
Sleep is SO important. It’s one of the important functions to help your body heal & recover. But it is also something that can easily suffer due to chronic stress. As mentioned above in the Energy section, these same reactions result is poor sleep when our body becomes worn out from overproducing these stress hormones.
Additionally, feelings of anxiety can weigh heavily, leaving our minds spinning as we try to go to sleep. I find that prayer & meditation work really well for me to calm my mind (and heart rate) when I’m feeling anxious. [Related Post: Setting Yourself Up For Great Sleep]
Cravings / Weight
An additional reaction that happens when those stress hormones are released is the effects on the cravings we have. Cortisol can stimulate your appetite, and its generally for things that are “comfort foods”. Since chronic stress also can leave us with less energy to get moving, and sleeping poorly, the addition of cravings and overeating can result in unwanted weight gain. [Related Post: How To Handle Stress Eating]
So what do we do about stress?
Now that you have seen a few things stress can impact in the body, how do we counteract this when some things are out of our control (like job layoffs or virtual schooling). Here are some things to try:
Reduce stress where you can
Find ways to get rid of the extra things that are just adding to your stress pile. These are your “controllables”…the things you CAN control when so many other things are out of control:
- Let go on your rules – if monitoring screen time length (once schooling is completed) is a daily stress, consider relaxing the rules on it during this time. Sometimes we all need a little escape and a place to find extra sanity.
- If wiping down every item you buy from the store is making you lose your marbles and stressing you out to the max, stop doing it. Many experts are saying that this is not really necessary…and considering that stress lowers your immunity, it’s better to let this one go if it’s adding stress.
- Consume less social media & news. Trust me on this one, it’s a huge help with stress during times like this (and honestly during a lot of times!). I avoid most news and only go on social media 1-2 times/day…sometimes less. I can notice a huge difference in how I feel compared to days I’m on more often. [Related Post: It’s Time To Turn Off Notifications]
Make time for downtime
It may sound funny to some to say “make time” but I can personally say that even though I am not working outside the home right now and only leave on rare occasions, I STILL don’t always take the time to take a walk, exercise, or meditate. It’s very easy to push these things off, especially when we get into a funk. You will not be disappointed in the results if you take the time to incorporate movement, favorite hobbies, and mental downtime. Start small if you need to – that’s what I did. I started adding one habit per day. Now I’ve been walking 2 miles most days, meditating almost daily, exercising multiple days/week, and doing yoga as well. I definitely feel the difference! This me-time does so much for my mind & spirit.
Give yourself grace
We ALL deserve some grace – especially during times when our normal has been scooped up and tossed into the air like confetti. Some days you will be doing amazing things and organize & declutter an entire room. The next day you may find yourself wandering around aimlessly staring out windows. Both of these are ok. When I feel like the latter, I allow myself a day of “meh”. And then the next day I work to give myself something to focus on. This normally gets me back to feeling even semi-productive. But I allow myself to feel that blah sometimes and I don’t get down on myself about it.
May You Be Well
This is a mantra I love to repeat… “May I Be Well”… “May I Be Happy” … “May I Be Healthy” Sometimes we need to repeat these things in our minds (or out loud) to remind our hearts & minds that we will be happy…we will be well. I encourage you to take time to do the things above to help destress during any time you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. And I will say for you as I do for myself: May You Be Well.