We have all had time to settle in and adjust to the, “New Normal”. The term worries me a bit since I don’t choose to think of any of this as normal. However, know that your feelings are shared by most people and your reactions to these events are indeed normal. You may feel that you are handling these events pretty well by now, but some signs of long-term or on-going stress can surface in many unexpected ways. For example, stressing about the COVID19 virus can lead to a lower immune system function ironically making you more susceptible to viruses and colds. We all know that stress can lead to irritability and relationship problems. While most crimes have lowered during this “lock down” times, domestic violence such as child abuse and spousal abuse have risen. Feeling a sudden urge to cry at any given time for both men & women with no apparent trigger can also be a sign that you are under stress. Don’t worry about this as it is a normal reaction to prolonged stress and does not indicate that you have a permanent problem. Take a deep breath, yawn, blink your eyes, etc. and again remind yourself that this is all temporary. Other signs of stress can surface such as waking from sleep at night and feeling hot as if the air conditioner is not working or waking with a fast heartbeat or trouble catching your breath. You can experience these attacks during waking hours as well. Sleeping too little or too much are signs of depression, eating too much or too little, new aches or pains, headaches, weakness or feeling unusually tired, etc.
What to do about the stress is more important than the symptoms. The stress relievers are not dramatic or exciting. They are actually pretty mundane and simple. Exercise is one we already know and don’t really want to hear about or we would already be doing that. Just taking a couple of walks around the block is good enough and can get you a change of environment or participating in an exercise program on TV. The simplest form of stress relief is meditation or breathing exercises. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes (or not) and breath in, counting from 1 to 4, breath out slowly and try to count from one to 5, if possible. Do this at least 3 to 5 times or more. If you concentrate to feel the air pass over your nostrils, it helps. These techniques don’t make a huge difference right away, but the repetition of such practices will make them work better and better for you. I recommended to you in my last blog that you use the app called, “Calm”, to help with a 3 minute relaxation during the day and an ‘adult bedtime story’. Again, at first you might listen to the whole story the first couple of nights, but after a while you will start drifting off to sleep sooner and sooner each night as soon as the speaker starts talking. Remember that repetition is the key to meditation or relaxation practices. Trying them once and giving up does very little good.
Remind yourself that this is not “your life”, but only a “part” of your life. Say to yourself in times of stress, “this is temporary”, this is not permanent and this will pass. Things will be better. One phrase form Psalms comes to mind, “Weeping endureth for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” There will be a new morning; you will look back and realize that you lived through a historical challenge in time and made it to the other side.