Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one,” quoted Hans Selye, a pioneer of stress theory. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has increased the stress levels within our community – it has led to an upheaval around the world. Though it is impossible to ignore the challenges this pandemic brought on, it’s also imperative to take control of our own thoughts and how we can better respond to outside stimulus. Our perception of stress can certainly influence our reaction to it. Cognitive reframing can be very useful as it guides an individual to be more aware of negative thoughts and reshaping these thoughts by means of perspective.
There are many known physical and psychological effects of stress. Research has revealed that individuals who fail to manage their stress effectively may display disturbances in growth and development along with an increased chance of experiencing psychiatric disorders.
Various complications become apparent when stress is prevalent. It is important that individuals realize stress is a common experience of daily life. Stress has led to human’s ability in developing mechanisms to cope with it healthily, including mediation and yoga. When there is a change that requires a physical, mental, or an emotional adjustment or response, stress occurs. Neurotransmitters are activated as a response to stress. This over-activation can lead to anxiety, depression, as well as damage to organs. Prolonged stress has also been found to negatively impact memory and has been associated with dementia, which is a loss of brain function, which affects memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior.
It is important to consider the immunological changes, which occur as a result of stress. Those who have high stress tend to have a compromised immune system, which causes vulnerability to infectious diseases. Researchers believe that the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are intimately connected. Stressors, which can come in the form of academic examinations, losing a job, and divorce (the list goes on) have been reported to cause various impairments within the cellular immune function.
There are several therapeutic strategies involved in the management of stress. Though there are many pharmacological approaches available for the public, it is important to also consider methods such as exercise (walking, light aerobics, jogging, etc.), which keeps the mind off stressors, relaxation techniques (soft music, yoga, meditation, etc.), which places the mind at ease and laughter, which causes an increase in positive energy.
It’s easy to come up with excuses about not being able to exercise, given our current circumstances with gym closures. This is why motivation techniques are also encouraged, as motivation provides individuals with the drive necessary to make positive changes in their lives. Rather than grabbing that smart phone to check emails or the news the first minute you’re awake, try to set your intentions for the day and protect yourself. Allow yourself some peace as you rise and shine and face another day. Carpe Diem!
In short, keep calm, breathe, and know that there will always be growing pains in association with any change that comes our way. We cannot change what’s occurring in our world, but we can certainly change our response. Never forget, we are in this together!
Lisette Michaels, M.S., CCC-SLP
North Valley Pediatric Therapy