Stress and Its Effect on Our Health 

 September 1, 2020

By  Dr. Joy Lasseter

I doubt if anyone would deny that this year has been very stressful. So many of us across the nation have lost jobs, homes, money, food, and security. It is tragic.

How does stress affect our health? Several types of events can cause stress: a single, short-term event; recurring situations; and chronic or toxic stress from high intensity, long-term situations. All types of stress can trigger a physical reaction, but long-term stress can do significant damage to our brain and body. Each individual is going to react differently to stress based on his/her childhood experiences and how their role models (parents, relatives, teachers) handled unexpected changes. (Emotional responses, attitudes, and beliefs are learned!)

There has been a significant increase in the rate of divorces during this pandemic as the stress levels for families have gone through the roof. Any change can affect the dynamics of the family structure. The breadwinner is out of work and grumpy at home. The overwhelmed caregiver and cook is homeschooling the children, and trying to keep everyone calm. It can feel like being in a hothouse. Tempers flare easily. Arguments are petty and silly. 

With “shut-in” recommendations it may be difficult to get out alone so you can get some space to think. Hopefully, you have someone to watch the children for you. Choose some simple activity to calm yourself: Get outside and go for a walk, or walk the dog. Go for a bicycle ride. Take a new route to explore a different neighborhood. Doing something new can give us a much needed mental health break. 

Walking in nature does that for me. I often come back from my walks inspired to approach a challenge from a different direction. Or I might suddenly realize a simple solution I had overlooked for an issue I was struggling with. A change of scenery is a good place to start for a fresh outlook on your challenges. Forgiveness and appreciation are important and valuable tools to use during this difficult time. 

The whole family is trying to navigate the many emotions that rise to the surface when people have sudden and dramatic lifestyle changes. Everyone is on edge. Don’t take things personally!

You can feel like ping pong balls bouncing off the walls. The chaos of change is very confusing and disorienting. Parents can teach their children how to handle challenges by example. Be careful not to get into a fight with your spouse over meaningless nonsense! Instead try flirting, teasing, and laughing together. Keep it light-hearted and fun.

Laughter breaks up tension. I have asked my friends to send me jokes and I send them jokes too. Frequently just watching a funny movie and laughing out loud lifts my spirits! Silly is appropriate for this confusing mess we find ourselves in. But to survive we must all be on the “Cooperation with Guidelines Team” to halt the spread. I don’t want to still be in “shut-in” mode next year! Do You? Let’s work together to beat this virus! It takes a community! 

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