Go ahead and search for “COVID-19 stress” in Google and you’ll come up with 1,340,000,000 hits in .67 seconds. WHAT???? That’s right. “Managing COVID-19 stress” will bring up 268,000,000 results in .49 seconds. And “Preventing COVID-19 stress” will bring up 148,000,000 results in 0.55 seconds. You aren’t surprised, are you? Seems more attention is focused on managing rather than preventing stress, that many think—THINK–is inevitable during COVID-19.
This reminds me of the famed village in Switzerland known world over for its very advanced ski slopes. Despite many signs warning that the slopes were not for beginners and to stand back from the edges of these remarkably breathtaking mountains, many ignored those warnings and fell to the bottom causing severe injuries.
The village leaders gathered and decided to place at the bottom of their slopes expensive ambulances and build even costlier surgery centers with multi-million dollar contracts for hospitals, orthopedic surgeons, nurses, medical-surgical equipment, big pharma company contracts, telemedicine services, all for when these novices fell off the slopes. “Let’s be there to pick them up and get them the medical attention they need immediately,” the town leaders proclaimed.
Apparently, everyone thinks managing or treating stress is the way to go. Like the village that ignored me when I suggested that for less than $1,000, they could put up a fence and preventfalls, it seems people just don’t get it.
Debilitating fatigue, jackhammer headaches, hypertension, weight gain, a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal symptoms, vice-like muscle tension, boiling anger, frozen anxiety, “I give up” depression and yes, even impaired sex drive—these are some of the stress-related costs to your wellbeing. Why manage what you can prevent during this time, or any time?
Want to prevent stress? Here’s how each of the letters of STRESS can guide you to do just that:
S– Smile more throughout the day, especially at the first 10 people you see
T– Think rationally, realistically, accurately, logically, confidently, optimistically, and positively
R– Relive the joys of your healthy relationships, focusing on what’s pleasant, the favorable accomplishments in your life, and what can go right. Keep a list of three “what went right today” items every day
E– Eat right and light including more greens than grains
S– Sweat more through regular exercise and movement including high intensity interval cardio and resistance training and walk more to avoid being sedentary. Oh, and speaking of S, set up a routine of restorative, restful, sleep
S– Savor your life by choosing gratitude and focusing your thinking in healthy, mindful, factual ways without predicting gloom and doom, slow yourself down by finding the beauty of experiences and creating relaxing moments throughout your day. Remember what Seneca said, “Everything hangs on one’s thoughts. The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable.”
We know that physical activity is one of the most effective tools to prevent, and yes, to reduce stress and tension. But what if you find yourself with one excuse after another to avoid this essential ingredient in stress prevention?
For example, what if exercising at home isn’t enjoyable or fun? How about watching tv, listening to music or reading while you are moving? A reliable partner with whom you can walk is always a great way to take your mind off of your activity and create some enjoyment.
Hard to exercise when you’re tired? Of course, check with your physician if you feel fatigue much of the time, but assuming all is healthy, try being active the same time every day to acclimate and adjust your body to become more energetic at that time of day. Rate your fatigue before and after exercise and you’ll see how much better working out is for your fatigue.
Family obligations during this shelter-at-home time in the way? Make a special effort to include them in your physical activities such as walking, biking, hiking together. Couples who sweat together stay together! Sharing your goals with your family so they understand how beneficial physical activity is for you to cope with, and prevent, the tension of COVID-19, is a way to “bring them into” your exercise routines.
Get bored when working out? If diversions and digressions like inspirational music doesn’t do it for you, use some mental imagery to create different settings in your mind in which to work out, or change up your goals, your routines, your equipment, and consider getting an “accountability partner” who can help you keep moving forward even when you feel a bit bored.Many wonder when all will return to “normal.” Many long for the days when they may have stressed over different things. Paolo Nutini summed it up well, “Where’d the days go when all we did was play? And the stress that we were under wasn’t stress at all just a run and a jump into a harmless fall.”