Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Stress and anxiety has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, not being able to go out to meet our loved ones that don't live with us. This has a huge impact on our mental health. When a situation happens such as ( not going out feeling isolated etc) that makes you feel anxious your brain releases cortisol and adrenalin. When these are realised into the brain, they block any good feeling hormones, this is why you may feel low mood, can't keep still, feel like everything is hopeless. There are ways that you can minimise the effects of stress and anxiety.
Firstly, how do you get rid of the negative impact of cortisol and adrenalin? the answer is increase the 'good feeling hormones'.
How do you release those good feeling hormones? by using strategies that can calm your Amygdala in your brain. You would not think such a small pea size part of the brain would have such a huge impact on your wellbeing? What is the amygdala? the amygdala is like a sorting office in your brain. all what you see, hear, feel, smell etc. gets sorted here and goes to the parts of the brain where they are supposed to go.
So If your amygdala is flooded with anxiety, stress or angry chemicals, the sorting office stops (amygdala). When this happens any information just piles up! Have you ever heard a parent saying to a child "it's like talking to a brick wall" because the child is not responding? this is because their sorting office has stopped working because their amygdala is stressed / anxious or even angry. So when this is the case, this is where those strategies come in. if you calm the amygdala you start to send those 'happy hormones' out and you become more rational. I hope this makes sense? The diagram below shows how stress can affect us.
When counsellors talk about strategies, these are important for you in terms of regulating emotions and calming down the amygdala. Who would have thought the hormones our body releases can have a huge impact on us?
So what strategies can you use? first write down all the people you miss and write their telephone numbers down on a piece of paper. Phoning, texting or using social media to contact people you care about can really help you when you get to a point where you feel anxious or stressed.
Try monitoring your feelings, write them down or remember them, things to consider. Where does my anxiety start? how does it make me feel? what type of feeling is it?. Now the thing to remember here is where does it start. The reason I am saying this is because for example, if it starts in your stomach. As soon as you are aware of where it starts this is when it would be best to start using your strategies.
So here is a few more things you can use:
* Using stress bands, these can be bought very cheaply and can be used when you are feeling stress.
* Writing down the things that make you anxious.
* Phone a friend, phoning a friend can help you pass time and catch up with people you care about. By contacting someone when you start to feel anxious, the feelings pass / minimise.
* Breathing exercises, are really good in terms of regulating breathing and calming the mind and body.
* Doing experiments, sometimes situations that we struggle with are usually made worse than what they actually are. So we make assumptions of what is going to happen. Even when we don't actually know what will happen. I call this using a "crystal ball". Challenging our assumptions can change the way we feel and minimise the thing that makes us feel stressed.
* Mindfulness is great for stress and anxiety, being in the moment helps us to forget what we are anxious about, thus calming our amygdala down. If the amygdala is calm then so are we!
* Relaxations, meditations are all good for reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. There are lots of these on the internet and can be found by using search engines.
* Did you know if you clench your fists it releases excess adrenalin?
* Affirmations, too are good and through repetition can help you to feel more positive.
* EFT Emotion Freedom Technique is great for stress and anxiety, I would suggest getting a Therapist who is trained in this. As to trying yourself.
* Laughing and smiling is great for releasing those happy hormones. Going to the supermarket or shops, smile at people this too releases those good feeling hormones. watch a funny movie, read a book listen to music.,
* One of my favourite strategies is to go out in the garden or in front of your home, close your eyes (if safe to do so), and listen to the sounds e.g. traffic, birds, people talking etc. Then think of the smells around you. By closing one sense off it enhances your other senses. This is great for grounding you.
So I hope you like this very quick look in to stress and anxiety, try some of the strategies, and remember what works for someone else may not work for you. This is why you need to try different ones to find ones that suit you. Also if you try any strategies try each one for at least a week. Remember, changing your mindset can really have a positive effect on your emotional wellbeing.