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Managing pandemic stress

By Dr. Nichole Chaviano, DPT

Every person has to manage a variety of stressful situations in both their personal and professional lives every day. Sometimes stress is good; it can force you to make tough decisions, organize your thoughts clearly and even boost memory – but these benefits are short term and the long-term effects can be detrimental to your health.

While responses to chronic stress can vary, individuals can experience negative effects to the musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, nervous and even reproductive systems. The stress that most of us have endured last year and this year has been unprecedented. The key to living healthier and happier may be proper stress management. It’s important to be proactive. 

The following key strategies will help you control your stress so that it does not control you.

  • Exercise: Exercise in any form can act as a stress reducer by increasing endorphins, improving your mood and allowing you to be distracted from the days events. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Examples of moderate aerobic activity include brisk walking or swimming, and vigorous aerobic activity can include running or biking. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater health benefits. Also, aim to do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
  • Changing Scenery: Historically, we spent our days driving to and from an office, picking up kids from school and even moving simply leaving your desk to go to conference rooms for staff meetings but because most of us are working or schooling from home we have reduced the need to move throughout the day. Set up multiple workstations with a variety of positions including sitting, standing, walking will help to reduce deconditioning of your body that comes with prolonged sitting.
  • Meditation + Mindfulness: Using guided or unguided meditation you can reduce stress with use of mindfulness techniques that include observation of your sensory experiences, observation of your thoughts and emotions and focusing attention on these tasks. Some common practice options include body scans, loving kindness and focused attention. There are a variety of options for children and adults through apps and online platforms
  • Manage Pain: Acute or chronic pain can put unwanted stress on our bodies that can lead to long term damage of joints, nervous structures, brain function and quality of life. Seeking help to reduce pain though physical therapy is a long-term solution and will provide you with the tools to manage future conditions through manual therapy, exercise and education.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: What we put into our bodies is just as important as what we do every day. Eat whole foods, as provided by nature; vegetables are especially beneficial. Eat small meals, but eat as often as you are hungry. Many people overeat at one particular meal and overload their digestion causing stress in their digestive system. Drink lots of pure water and reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates. Try to eliminate foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup

Stress is different for everyone. It’s very easy to avoid dealing with it as our days get fuller and other responsibilities take precedence, but it’s important to take care of yourself in order to take care of those around you and be your best self in 2021.

If you are experiencing a correlation between chronic stress and chronic pain, contact us at ProFysio Physical Therapy to help get to the root of your stress and help to work through some techniques to manage your condition and reduce your pain.

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