Social Unrest and COVID-19: How Long-Term Stress Will Make You Sick

We’re finding ourselves living in interesting times – 2020 is fast becoming a year of constant change, unusual social upheaval, and economic volatility. Add that to highly polarized election year, and we have the makings of a very stressful environment.

While some people may find it easier to cope with stress than others, it’s important to note that ANYONE can learn to better understand their reaction to stress and learn how to control it.

Let’s talk a little about what stress really is – we can generalize it into two kinds:

Distress – This is bad stress. It weighs on us, makes us anxious, and threatens our health. We want to reduce this kind of stress as much as possible.

Eustress – This is good stress. This type of stress helps drive us and be more productive. This type of stress comes from the challenges that we conquer and it helps us to become better people. We want to invite more of this kind of stress into our lives.

Much of the stress that we’re experiencing now is DISTRESS from everything that we’re hearing and reading about in the news cycle. Distress leads to anxiety, a constant feeling of fear over a future that you don’t have control over.

Without proper guidance, distress and anxiety can wreak havoc on your body and mind by activating your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) for prolonged periods.

  • Your digestive system slows and is less active. This can result in loss of appetite and unhealthy weight loss due to a lack of essential nutrients.
  • Sleep problems and exhaustion can hinder your ability to work and function.
  • Muscle tension that can lead to intense physical pain including back pain and headaches.
  • Increased amounts of the stress hormone cortisol will reduce your body’s ability to fight off disease and will lead to an increased susceptibility to illness.

Self care, a healthy perspective, and proper guidance from a mental health professional are essential to controlling stress and controlling your response to stress. 

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