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Defining Our Response to Stress in Defining Times

Your Health Matters - with Janet Zappala

st, we learn how much we’re able to handle – mentally, emotionally and physically. The coronavirus pandemic has caused nearly insurmountable amounts of stress for almost every human being on the planet. Knowing that, alone, is stressful, but it’s what we do in times like these that will define us forever. 

Normally, when we experience stress, we find ways to deal with it, but in unprecedented times like COVID-19, it’s stress on steroids. The element of the unknown creates anxiety, a feeling of powerlessness. We ask ourselves, “Will we get the virus? Will our loved ones get sick?” Here are a few suggestions on how to combat stress during this challenging time:

Be ready, be prepared. The positive news is, the pandemic has taught us a lot about how to prepare better. Just as we prep for weather-related emergencies and earthquakes, we should have a stockpile of supplies (paper products, canned foods and water), so hoarding doesn’t become an issue at the height of an emergency. When people have the necessary supplies, stress levels will dissipate dramatically and healthy coping will be more the norm than the exception. The American Red Cross recommends being Red Cross Ready with lists of essential items that can be found on their website. 

Make a plan. Talk with your family members and neighbors about what to do during emergencies. Be informed and know the risks where you live. Then, make a plan to write out the steps you can take to stay safe. 

Focus on a hobby or project. Having a plan and supplies should provide some peace of mind, but in the face of a health crisis, sheltering in place creates a whole new set of issues and can cause angst. In times of adversity and big change, it is essential to find personal ways to manage and alleviate your stress. 

I find that working on a skill takes so much concentration I can’t think of anything else except the task at hand. In my case, this is playing the piano. It’s something I’ve found that gives me a sense of calm and accomplishment; my stress just melts away. For you, it could be painting, gardening or photography. Find something challenging and rewarding on which to focus.

Exercise your stress away. Exercise is also a major stress reliever and health enhancer. Thankfully, my Zumba instructor has been streaming classes on Facebook so that exercise is still a part of my routine. Whether it is dancing, walking, riding a bike or playing with your pet, movement does a body and mind good.

Establish a routine. In times of distress, we may not stick to our routines, but it’s then that we need them the most. Our routines provide comfort and a sense of normalcy in extremely abnormal times. If you can’t keep your previous routine, create a new one. Having the structure of a routine is important.

Maintain connection. We can also combat stress by talking with loved ones and friends. With today’s technology, there’s no shortage of creative ways to reach out and stay in touch. 

Practice gratitude. And finally, be grateful for all the good in your life. An attitude of gratitude helps us focus on our blessings and less on what’s creating difficulty. Thinking positively reminds us that this too shall pass.

Janet Zappala is a certified nutritional consultant, an Emmy-award-winning anchor and reporter, and the creator and host of Your Health Matters. Find her on Facebook @JanetZappalaYourHealthMatters.

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