Navigating Stress During a Pandemic
As each day brings new updates, possibly with worrying or confusing information about COVID-19 (coronavirus), we each respond to this stress in our own ways. Everyone is different—our various thoughts, emotions and reactions are normal in the face of such widespread uncertainty.
There are many practical and helpful ways that you can manage stress in these uncertain times. The good news is that adopting these self-care practices will not only help you now, but they will also continue to boost your mood and health long after this pandemic has passed. To learn more visit, Managing Mental Health During the Pandemic.
- Stress is a normal part of everyone’s life.
- Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Every type of demand or stressor (i.e. exercise, work, school, major life changes, or traumatic events) can be stressful. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes, such as getting the internship you want, produces stress.
- Stress can affect one’s health. Too much stress or ignoring stress can cause both physical and mental health problems. It is important to pay attention to how one deals with minor and major stress events so that one knows when to seek help.
- Not all stress is bad or unhealthy. Stress can be beneﬁcial for performance; there is an optimal level
of stress, if exceeded performance will decline.
- “Eustress” is the positive form of stress, which arises in situations where motivation or inspiration is found. These situations are neither psychologically or physiologically harmful.
- Stress and anxiety are different. While stress is a response to an external cause, anxiety is one’s specific response to stress and is internal. And unlike stress, anxiety can continue even after the stress has passed. Someone who experiences chronic stress or anxiety can benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. The staff at Student Health and Wellness Mental Health are here to support students.
- Stress and anxiety can be hard on your body and mind. It can cause eating or sleeping difficulties, chest tightness, inability to concentrate, racing thoughts, and fatigue.
- Mindfulness based practice is an evidence-based way to cope with stress and anxiety. Mindfulness can be defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” It is important to note that most of us will never be mindful 100% of the time, and that this is not the goal. Instead, engaging in a daily mindful practice, whether that is yoga, meditation, deep breathing, nature walks, or stretching can help lead you towards a path of reduced anxiety, better sleep, and heightened energy.
- Physical activity has been shown to improve both physical and mental health. Physical activity reduces the body's stress hormone levels, and stimulates the production of endorphins. Endorphins can produce the feeling of relaxation and optimism. Regular activity can decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.
- Studies have shown that social connection can help us manage stress and improve our overall wellbeing. Benefits of social connection include: improves one’s ability to cope with stressful situations, promotes good mental health, enhances self-esteem, and promotes healthy lifestyle behaviors.
- If someone is experiencing high levels of stress consistently, it may be helpful to talk with a medical professional, spiritual advisor, counseling and mental health staff member, or employee assistance professional.