Dr. Joe Novak
Time to take your stress temperature
Today, more than ever, many of us are feeling stress. We are facing the daily challenges of work or school, tasks, chores, relationship commitments, and self-care while trying to cope with the unexpected and the unknown of a global pandemic. Stress is how our bodies and minds react to the demands of life circumstances. When stressed, our brains release stress hormones to respond to perceived stress and to trigger our immune systems. This is often referred to as a fight or flight response. Stress can be motivating, yet sometimes the stress we experience can lead to fear which becomes too much for us to endure. Physical signs of too much stress, such as headaches, upset stomach, muscle pain, and even a lowered immune system can emerge. Chronic physical conditions can worsen, and we can experience emotional changes, impulsive behavior, and distorted thinking. Both our mental and physical health can begin to suffer, especially if we are already struggling with anxiety or depression.
This is why taking a daily reading of your stress temperature is so important right now. You can start doing this by setting aside a few minutes each day to answer the following questions:
What am I feeling in my mind? Am I feeling emotional symptoms such as sadness uneasiness, or constant thoughts of having too much to do?
What am I experiencing in my body? Am I feeling physical symptoms such as headache, stomachache, nagging muscle aches and pains, or rapid heartbeat?
Do I feel in control of what is going on around me and of my reactions?
Am I tired right now because of poor sleep or exhaustion from trying to keep up?
Am I feeling annoyed or easily irritated for no particular reason?
Do I just want to retreat or escape from the weight of my world right now?
If you are showing signs of running a stress temperature, consider utilizing these stress relievers right now:
Decide what you can get done today and give yourself permission to postpone what can wait.
Start saying “no” to any new events, tasks, or requests from others that add to your full schedule.
Focus on the things you can control and let go of things that you cannot control. Accept that you cannot control COVID-19.
Stand up, move around, take a walk, or exercise.
Take time to engage in a series of at least six slow, deep belly breaths. Continue practicing these deep breaths throughout the day, especially when you experience signals from your body that you are feeling uneasy or tense.
Focus on relaxing each of your muscles, one by one, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.
Manage your fear by keeping your thoughts on the present moment, instead of thinking about the future.
Talk to a family member or reach out to your social village for support.
Think about what you choose to eat today and avoid foods that affect your mood or make your energy level bounce up and down.
Stop being so hard on yourself, and turn your negative monologue upside down by focusing on what is positive in your life.
Remember, take some time each day to evaluate your stress level and start making some changes right away. Seek help when life feels overwhelming. Your body and mind will thank you.