Stress: We all know what it feels like, and these days, we’d be surprised if you weren’t feeling some level of emotional or mental strain considering the year we’ve had so far. While the U.S. has always been stressed out — our country ranked among the top 10 most stressed-out nations in previous years — things have only intensified, thanks to a global pandemic, civil and political unrest, climate change, the economy, and about a billion other things.
Considering the current state of affairs and the impact of COVID-19 on life as we know it, the American Psychological Association adapted its annual Stress in America poll “to better understand how individuals are coping with the extreme stress of this crisis.” As it turns out, Americans are indeed more stressed than ever. About 71% of parents reported stress related to managing education for their children. Approximately 7 in 10 Americans said that the government’s response to the pandemic is causing them stress, and 70% are concerned about the economy. Now that’s a lot of stress to reckon with.
Luckily, there are ways to recognize and manage stress.
Sure, chronic stress has consequences for our minds and bodies down the line, but it’s not all bad. Stress is actually an evolutionary response to danger that triggers our fight-or-flight instincts. But when the danger isn’t necessary physical or immediate, that’s when it manifests and can ultimately cause more harm than good.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to recognize and manage stress so that these problems don’t chip away at your health over time.
First, learn to recognize the signs of stress.
Stress can trigger both mental and physical responses that can lead to issues within the cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems, just to name a few. Not sure if you’re stressed (or how stressed you actually are)? Here’s what to look for:
Signs of Stress
- Increased heart rate and breathing
- Elevated blood pressure
- Tense muscles
- Digestive system slowdown
- A heightened state of alertness
Symptoms of Stress
- Decreased energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in libido
- Issues with appetite or digestion
- Depression and anxiety
- Physical pain
Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress (whether pandemic-related or otherwise) can help you mitigate its harmful effects.
Here are a few ways to manage stress.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Like we mentioned earlier, stress is the physical response to danger. While the “perceived danger” might not be physical in nature, you can help release the body’s response to that stress through physical activity that relaxes the mind and body. Think practices like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and even a good workout can help restore your breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate to normal.
- Supplement a healthy diet with CBD. CBD is a natural anxiety-reducer than can help combat the effects of stress. Studies have shown that it can calm the mind and promote restful sleep, all by impacting our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems. Whether you take a few drops of CBD oil in the AM, nosh on some CBD gummies, or try a topical treatment, this organic compound could be just the thing you need to relax and watch the stress melt away.
- Consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Sometimes, you need to call in the professionals. According to Harvard Health, CBT works by changing unhealthy thinking that will, in turn, change your emotions. “A CBT therapist will help you identify negative thinking and learn to automatically replace it with healthy or positive thoughts,” the article states.
Stress is unavoidable, especially in today’s world. Whether you’re worried about the pandemic, the economy, or anything in between, it’s safe to say you’re definitely not alone. But by being able to recognize and manage the signs and symptoms of stress, you can help combat the harm it might do to your health and maybe — just maybe — feel chill for a moment.