19 May Managing Stress in Uncertain Times
Even without reading any of today’s headlines or listening to news reports about the continuing Coronavirus pandemic, our lives are filled with stress. From paying the bills to caring for children or aging parents to various health conditions, there are many sources of stress.
When we consider stress in our lives, it is usually in the context of what we should do to stop the stress rather than the stress itself is affecting our bodies. The primary consideration during the Coronavirus pandemic is that stress will depress the immune system. A depressed immune system will set you up for an infection of some kind, whether Coronavirus or something else.
A primary marker for stress in the body is cortisol. Cortisol is made on a daily basis by the adrenal glands to handle stress. For a person who has no stress on a regular basis, the pattern of secretion is that the levels are low at night to allow sleep, then gradually builds to a peak level around 6AM, then slowly comes down during the day to a low level again at night. This is “normal” but it is also normal for the body to respond in the middle of a day with significant stress by producing more cortisol. If the stress continues (think Coronavirus), the levels will be high for a long time. In addition to depressing the immune system, the elevated cortisol can cause many other problems including: weight gain, acne, thinning skin, easy bruising, headache, severe fatigue (frequently from loss of sleep), flushed face, muscle weakness, irritability, difficult to concentrate, slowed healing, and high blood pressure.
This next part is easier said than done, but most of us could do a better job of dealing with our stress. It is one thing to check the news coverage on how things are going in the world, but another thing altogether to obsess hour after hour watching news reports and surfing internet sites about the Coronavirus. You might need to unplug from these troubling reports if they are causing extreme anxiety. A good goal would be to stay aware and prepare, not panic. Meditation, prayer, and exercise have been shown to reduce stress. If nothing else, be sure to find 15 or more minutes every day to completely remove outside stimulation of any kind to focus on the good things of life and how the activities you are missing right now will return.
For people who need extra help dealing with their anxiety due to the current pandemic, there are some supplements which can be helpful. The amino acid L-theanine reduces anxiety at about 100 to 200mg up to 3 times a day. For support of the adrenals, there are several options to keep that very important gland functioning properly. Valerian root, magnesium, and an adaptogen like ginseng could be helpful.
I am sure you have heard about stress making you sick but it is especially important at this critical time during the coronavirus outbreak to keep our immune systems functioning at peak efficiency, so try to keep your stress level down as much as possible.