Long-term activation of the body’s fight or flight stress response can lead to health issues. The body’s stress hormone, cortisol, is beneficial in small doses, but can become detrimental when levels remain elevated (Mayo Clinic, 2019). During the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are experiencing a lost sense of “agency” – the feeling of being in control of your life (van der Kolk, p. 95). This chronic stress of feeling out of control and on-guard can lead to autoimmune disorders, skeletal and muscular problems, and issues with emotional regulation if left untreated (van der Kolk, p. 86). Less severe consequences include digestive issues, headaches, and sleep issues (Mayo Clinic, 2019). To overcome the effects of chronic stress, we must find a way to calm the body’s fight or flight response. Remaining calm and focused when introduced to stressful situations in our daily lives is imperative for our health (van der Kolk, p. 203).
Take action! Regain that sense of agency. Making an active effort to deal with traumatic or stressful situations is beneficial to your health, so put your adrenaline to good use (van der Kolk, p. 217). If the coronavirus has you feeling on edge, follow a YouTube tutorial and make masks for you and your loved ones. If you have all the supplies you need, check in on a neighbor and see if they need anything. Do what you can to help feel in control.
Get physical! We face disruptive physical reactions to stress (van der Kolk, p. 204). When chronically stressed, tension builds up within the body (van der Kolk, p. 266). Yoga is proven to have incredible results for calming the body and undoing these harmful reactions. Yoga focuses on regulating breath – regulated breathing helps create a steady heart rate, which contributes to overall health and well-being. This helps us stay calm and react in a more composed manner when faced with daily stressors (van der Kolk, p. 266). If yoga is not for you, even just going for a walk around your neighborhood daily can help to clear your mind and keep your physical body healthy.
Mayo Clinic. (2019, March 19). Chronic stress puts your health at risk. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Penguin Books.