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Healthy ways to cope with stress

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COVID-19 has changed a lot in our lives. But there are many day-to-day stressors that will impact our lives, regardless of the pandemic.

Still, there is a fear of sickness. Stress from having a hard time finding a job, paying bills or keeping to a daily routine. Others suffer from being isolated or feeling disconnected.

As the COVID-19 situation changes, so do the stressors that come along with it. Should I wear a mask? Should I not wear a mask? Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine? Should I wait to see the impact of the vaccine? Unfortunately, stress is a silent health issue you may be ignoring. The unknown is often scary.

Stress touches every life. It can threaten your health. How you cope with it is important.

Not all stress is bad. However, you can prevent its negative affects by knowing how to monitor it and when to ask for help.

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How stress works

There are healthy ways to cope with stress. It helps to understand how stress works.

Stress is your body’s answer to an outside force. Your brain and body react to tough situations by releasing hormones. This sparks your “flight or fight” response, and you may feel on-edge until you find a way to calm down.

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Physical effects of stress

Stress can damage your body, especially if you’ve been feeling it for a long time. When you are stressed, your muscles get tense. This can trigger headaches and migraines or sore muscles and pain.

It can also change your breathing. You may have rapid breathing or shortness of breath when hit with a sudden stressor. If you have COPD, chronic bronchitis or other pre-existing respiratory issues, it can make things even worse.

Stress can also upset digestion, causing stomachaches, heartburn or bloating. All of these can make you uncomfortable and affect your mood. Too much stress can also sex drive, make it more difficult to have children and alter a woman’s menstruation cycle.

Long-term stress is also bad for your heart. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. It’s also possible that stress can increase your cholesterol levels. The effects of stress on your heart vary from person to person, as does the type of stress and how it impacts heart health.

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Mental effects of stress

Stress can impact your mental health as well. You might start to notice mood swings or a mix of feelings such as anxiety, anger or fear. It can even lead to or worsen depression.

Stress can change how you act. You may feel like turning to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or overusing a prescription medication instead of getting help.

Previous life trauma and failing to deal with stress can increase your risk of suicide. If you or a loved one struggle with isolation or feeling alone, it’s important to check in with family and friends often. If you see any warning signs of suicide, seek help.

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How to cope with stress and COVID-19 fears

Here are ways to deal with stress during COVID-19:

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Where to seek help

If stress is taking over your life, you might need help. Don’t be scared or ashamed, everyone struggles with stress. Call your doctor or use one of these options for help:

NMC Health is here for you. Your health is our focus.

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