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Coping with stress during challenging times

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STRESS is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses. Stress has many triggers and people have different ways of dealing with it. When you perceive a threat or a major challenge, chemicals and hormones surge throughout your body.

Stress triggers your fight-or-flight response in order to fight the stress or run away from it. Naturally as humans, we should have fear when the situation warrants it. We all feel stressed at times, but what one person finds stressful may be very different from what another finds stressful.

  Outbreaks can be very stressful. Apart from its hazardous health effects, disease outbreaks take a toll on the mental health of people. Now, an outbreak as major and looming as coronavirus does not make for peace of mind or a mind void of stress. We didn’t see this one coming; state wide lockdowns, social distancing, ubiquitous nature of hand sanitizers and face masks and not to mention the question of what the future looks like after this. Cases of people rubbing hand sanitizers as body lotion as crazy as that might sound is no longer fresh news. A lot of hare brained theories are churned out on a regular basis with different intents and a lot of them don’t do anything to calm the mind of the masses.

  According to a senior lecturer of Mass Communication Department, NnamdiAzikiwe University (UNIZIK), Dr Henry Duru, “People are always stressed in our country because our level of social security is very poor. We are vulnerable to hunger, financial crisis, terrorism and all sorts of social threats. So when we have our means of livelihood by way of our work and trading put on hold because of the lockdown, our stress levels will only increase. People have never been sure of how they’re going to survive and now they’re experiencing lockdown”.

  There is a difference between willfully ignoring the biggest story in the world right now, and going into full-on panic. Below are some tips on how to handle the stress. You can see it as hand washing and social distancing but for your brain instead:

  “There is a ton of information out there. The challenge is trying to determine which information is accurate.” says Lynn Bufka, Associate Executive Director for Research and Policy at the American Psychological Association. She suggests you choose an international source like the CDC and a local source so you can be up to date as regards what is happening in your community. In other words, find a few sources you trust and stick with them. In addition, limit the frequency of your updates; things are changing rapidly but that doesn’t mean you should hang on to every update.

 Get adequate sleep: “Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world’s population,” according to the World Sleep Society.  Science has linked poor slumber with high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a lack of libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression and a higher risk of diabetes. Getting little or no sleep will not be helping anything at all.

 Engage in regular physical activity: Exercise can boost immunity and reduce anxiety. According to a new study from Princeton University, exercise appears to change the chemistry of the brain by causing the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps quiet brain activity and minimize anxiety.

Dr Henry also suggests that the government should find a way to ameliorate people’s difficulty at this time. “Social security measures should be put in place by the government by way of provision of basic means of life sustenance to people like food, medicine and so on and so forth”.

  As much as you can, avoid idleness. Develop positive habits during this period. Let’s not let caution become overreaction.

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