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Everyone has one thing on their mind, coronavirus disease (SARS CoV2) and rightly so. In Canada the number of positive cases is increasing ever so slightly with each passing day. The country has ensured measures to help reduce transmission and so far, it is working, really it is. The recommendations of diligent hand washing and social distancing are being heavily practiced and are critical to slowing down the spread.
The rapidly changing information has led to thoughts of running out of food, medications and essentials such as toilet paper as many people are transitioning to staying home. The combination of these events, governmental responses, media announcements and social media posts has our stress response alarm bells ringing loudly and constantly.
The human body is designed to deal with stress. There is a remarkable sequence of physiological changes that occur when the human body encounters stress. Whether it’s an argument with a loved one, running away from a threat or turning on your screen to learn about a confirmed positive case of coronavirus within your community, the stress response is automatically activated. When activated, epinephrine and norepinephrine rise in the bloodstream, this causes a surge in cortisol, the stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands. This increase in cortisol helps deliver messages to the body to help cope with stress. In particular, short bursts of cortisol during stressful periods help increase energy and alertness to help you deal with the stressful situation. However, prolonged, worsening stress can lead to dysfunction and a counter-productive stress response. Situations such as the coronavirus pandemic are wreaking havoc on our normal healthy stress response.
When the stress response becomes dysfunctional it can impact other systems and functions in the body. Sleep disruptions, decreased mental well-being and chronic inflammation can occur. One of the main systems that are negatively impacted by stress is the immune system. Chronic stress can reduce the immune system’s defense response, increasing the likelihood of getting sick. So, with the current climate, one of the best things we can do for our health is to check in and keep stress levels within a healthy range. Panicking is not productive and does not benefit your health.
Tips to maintain mental well-being and keep your immune system strong:
Self-isolation is an important measure for global health but is also a great opportunity to work on your mental and physical health. Stay calm, seek support (virtually) and use this time while at home to focus on self-care, your health depends on it.
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