A word about stress and isolation
It’s widely accepted that the quality of our mental health can have a visible effect on us physically.
As an acupuncturist, I have seen this a lot in my patients over the years, and stress and anxiety are often the culprits, as worry or concerns about something in life become the dominant force in our emotional health.
Sometimes those anxieties are related to problems within a relationship, challenges or pressures at work, financial concerns or the psychological burden of providing care and support to a family member in ill health.
And right now those same issues may well be in play behind closed doors the length and breadth of the country. The likely difference is that they have been amplified by the threat of coronavirus, the impact of social distancing guidelines and the pressure of living cheek-by-jowl with people 24/7.
The stress and anxiety that has come from our world changing so rapidly and so extensively is causing all sorts of disparate and unique tensions that, even two or three weeks ago, few would have thought to have been an issue.
People with seemingly secure jobs have found themselves being furloughed and relying on Government assistance schemes to ensure they can meet their bills – and in some cases, of course, 80% of a salary is 20% short of being able to do even that.
There are those whose health is vulnerable and who have been unable to leave the house, making them reliant upon the goodwill and generosity of others, or the lottery of supermarket delivery schemes, to get essential food and life staples over the threshold.
Still others in an abusive or destructive relationship who were able to cope when the space that work created was available to them have suddenly found themselves living with the permanent threat of physical or emotional conflict.
The stress that generates is intense and it is impossible to not have a physical or emotional response.
Stress manifests itself in all manner of ways – from headaches and muscular issues that come from tension – elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, raised body temperature or an ever-present knot of fear in the stomach.
It’s very hard for me to be in a position where I am unable to be there in person to help those patients who I know will be struggling to cope at the moment.
My clinic, like almost every other, has been forced to close its doors temporarily until this situation is resolved and I am very sad that the help I have been privileged to give to people can’t be given to those who most need it right now.
However, there are some things you can do at home that may help to ease the stress you’re feeling, even if they don’t entirely relieve it.
Here, then, are 5 great ways of just dialling down the noise that stress beings into your life a little.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found that laughter is a great way of escaping from the challenges that lockdown has brought. There are some circumstances where the last thing we feel like doing is laughing, but as the old saying goes, laughter really is great medicine. Lose yourself in a favourite comedy show or film, watch YouTube videos of silly things that raise a smile and the chances are you’ll find it gives you a little respite from the always-on state that is very often the norm for stress.
And feeling uplifted is just as powerful as laughing – so watching a feel-good movie or reading an inspiring or uplifting book is another way of relieving stress.
If laughter is great medicine, so too is exercise. Even if you’re self-isolating or the lack of open spaces near your home make it difficult to go for a brisk walk or a run, there are plenty of ways you can exercise at home – from doing a few sit-ups to going up and downstairs (if you have them) a few times to just sticking on your favourite songs and dancing around the living room. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day can make all the difference.
Write a journal
Sometimes, the simple act of emptying your head onto a sheet of paper can be cathartic. And if there’s a secret writer in you, maybe this is the time to think about starting a personal blog or journal (just for yourself, if not for the wider world), just keeping a regular diary or maybe even starting the novel that we all have inside us.
Drink less caffeine and alcohol
Neither of these is your friend if you suffer with stress. Caffeine, as we all know, is a stimulant and makes it harder to get the rest you need in order to stay healthy (and this is particularly an issue if you already suffer with sleep issues due to stress), while alcohol is simply a form of self-soothing that masks the real issues facing you. If you’re a heavy user of either of these, maybe think about replacing every other cup or glass with a glass of water.
Even when we’re at home and self-isolating, we can still get caught up in the job of meeting the needs of others. Learn to say no and to manage the amount you take on in the name of someone else, and use the time you save to find a quiet corner of your home or garden to be alone and present with yourself and your own feelings and needs.
It’s also important to remember that even though this may be a worrying time, there are still positives to be found in life, so try to practice gratitude, as this will help you to give perspective to your day-to-day worries.
And while you shouldn’t, under normal circumstances, tie yourself up in knots trying to accommodate other people’s needs, do also try to do something selfless for someone else, no matter how small – it will help you to feel good about who and what you are, too.
These are tough times for everyone, and I pray that we will soon be able to spend time with other people, even if it’s in a closely managed way. I’m certainly looking forward to being there for my patients again, when the time comes.
In the meantime, stay safe and well – and keep an eye out here for more articles over the coming few weeks.
If you’d like to know more about acupuncture and how it can be of benefit to you when we reopen, why not pick up the phone and give me a call?