The pandemic has significantly increased our stress in many ways, and therefore, has had a significant impact on our health. A survey that was conducted in 2021 by the American Psychological Association found that 84% of adults reported feeling at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress. Stress has considerable impacts on our health by influencing our immune system, sleep, eating behavior, mood, and indirectly causes weight gain and increased cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugars.
Isolation and Oxytocin
Isolation means avoiding social outing such as dining out, dinner at a friend’s house, attending social events, and family gatherings for birthdays and holidays. Isolation has increased our stress by decreasing our social time. When we socialize, our bodies produced a hormone caused oxytocin. Oxytocin has been shown to have the most impact on the side effects of stress. Some people will benefit more from socializing then others because we all produce different amounts based on our genetics. There are people who genetically produce larger amounts of oxytocin and therefore are more stress resilient than others. For those of us that produce less and are predisposed to the impacts of stress, it’s more important to keep some type of socializing in our lives. Other ways to stimulate oxytocin production are through good Samaritan acts and touch such as getting a massage. By being proactive in ways to produced oxytocin, we can reduce the side effects of stress.
Working from Home
Working from home has some great benefits. We don’t have to commute in traffic every day, we can make home cooked meals, and we can have more time with our family.
However, working from home has also caused a decrease in physical activity, decrease in boundaries, increased availability of comfort foods, decrease in self-care, and a decrease in socializing at work.
If you find yourself feeling more stressed from these things, the cons may be outweighing the benefits.
When we find ourselves staying at home more and not leaving the house this, along with increased stress can cause a decrease in Serotonin production. Serotonin is a hormone that helps us feel happy and regulate anxiety. There is genetic predisposition that helps produce more Serotonin than others and some may be more susceptible to feeling more stressed in this type of environment. We can get Serotonin by being in nature like going for a walk outside, heat through a hot tub or hot bath and through tactile activities that use our hands.
We all need self-care and boundaries to decrease stress and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Change is challenging. During the pandemic, there has been a constant change occurring such as where we are working from, online versus in person school, wearing a mask or not and the list goes on. This constant change puts us in a state of stress all the time. During these times, it’s important to acknowledge how we are feeling and then make prioritize our health to helps during these times.
For many of us we have little to no control of our circumstance that we are now in. However, we can place strategies in our life to decrease the symptoms of stress and therefore begin to improve our health. When we begin to decrease stress, we can begin to see improvements in our mood, blood pressure, weight loss, and blood sugars. Here are a few things we can do to help with our stress.
- See a professional. Our mental health counselors are great to speak with, they can be a listening ear and provide individualized strategies for coping with stress.
- Exercise-Work with a Personal Trainer. Exercise has been shown to improve our mood and decrease our stress. As well as improve blood pressure, decrease pain, and assist with weight loss.
- Healthy Nutrition-See a Dietitian. Through healthy nutrition we can decrease inflammation and the negative symptoms that come with it. Healthy nutrition can also benefit our gut health. Having a healthy gut can increase Serotonin production and help improve our mood.
- Meditate-There are many forms of meditation, and it has been shown to greatly help with decreasing stress and increasing our ability to focus.
- Massage-Getting regular massages have been shown to increase oxytocin and serotonin and therefore decrease the symptoms of stress.
Written by: Heather Marsh M.S., 20/20 LifeStyles at PRO Medical
Heather has been working with our 20/20 LifeStyles program for seven years. She has a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Central Washington University, was a Personal Trainer and the 20/20 LifeStyles Director. In 2019 and 2021, she completed her genetic training through DNALife and is now the 20/20 Genetic Specialist/Educator. With a newfound passion in the field of genetics, she is fascinated by the science and seeing people make a deeper connection to how their bodies function. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, hiking, camping, and traveling.