30 Ways To Adjust Your Stress Response In Emotionally Trying Times

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stressed-out woman sitting in bed
Health And Wellness

Stress is not easy to eliminate, especially when you don’t have the ability to solve the problem itself. It can be difficult to adjust your stress response, especially in a pandemic.

Just having to stay "socially distanced" and at home most of the time is stressful.

With my incurable multiple myeloma, COVID-19 could kill me. I also worry about the health of my wife, children, and grandkids.

You may not be able to solve your pandemic problems, but you can learn how to deal with the stress.

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My stress level went through the roof in 2018 when I received my cancer diagnosis and devastating prognosis. I feared my career was over, my quality of life would end, and the ability for me to provide for my family would stop abruptly.

Many people I coach have experienced increased levels of emotional stress with the pandemic as the primary cause, affecting their daily life, eating habits, and ability to maintain an income.

Studies have proved that ongoing stress for a long time could cause permanent autoimmune damage if not removed in short order.

The good news is that working on a game plan to address this stress can be helpful. By focusing on solutions for stress, you can improve your overall health and your family’s well-being.

Here are the 30 ways to adjust your stress response in emotionally trying times.

1. Change what you can.

However, you must also realize there are things you can’t change.

Forget about those things that are beyond your control, but don’t compromise with those things you can and want to change.

2. Surround yourself with happy news.

Turn off the bombardment of depressing news on T.V.

3. Don't give in to fake conspiracy theories.

Don’t spread them as facts to others, either. If they intrigue you, thoroughly investigate them first.

4. Look to the experts.

Consider your local health department as a reliable source for information about the pandemic.

5. Stay in touch with loved ones.

Schedule FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype appointments with your close friends and relatives.

6. Listen to music.

Have pleasing music playing in the background in your home.

7. View podcasts and webinars that interest you.

These are abundant on YouTube, iTunes, and other sources.

8. Watch animated or comedy movies to bring a smile to your face.

Streaming TV apps like Disney, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV are great sources for them.

9. Further your education.

Take an online course through a virtual college, university, or educational facility.

10. Journal about your stress.

Writing about what you're feeling "inside your head" can help bring dark thoughts into the light and defuse their negative effects on your well-being.

11. Find out what worries you.

Write these down and then make a list of possible solutions, so you can be proactive as well as reactive.

12. Be present.

If you're worried and afraid, bring your attention to your breath and your body.

Slowly breathe in and out. Focus on the here and now. Be aware of the sights, sounds, and smells around you and what you’re feeling in your body.

Continue to breathe slowly in and out until you feel calmer.

13. Go on a walk.

Take refreshing long walks outside and take in the beauty of nature.

14. Engage in a hobby or start a new one.

It could be painting, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, knitting, playing a musical instrument, or photography.

15. Exercise.

You can do this inside your home or outdoors.

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16. Be physically active.

Shoot some basketballs, play tennis, throw a Frisbee, or go for a swim — engage in any kind of sport.

17. Dance and sing.

You can even include your kids and spouse.

18. Play board games.

You can find new and challenging games for the family to play online.

19. Donate.

This can be to various food banks or children's hospitals.

20. Volunteer, virtually.

You can read stories for a children’s hospital or interact with nursing home residents via Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.

21. Be a calming presence.

Help family members and friends to be calm.

22. Write creatively.

This includes poetry, memorable moments, and fictional and non-fictional stories.

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23. Self-publish your writings on Amazon.

It’s free and creates an income.

24. Create an Internet business.

It can be anything you want to do or passionate about.

25. Connect with friends and loved ones via social media.

Sites like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great places to follow businesses and topics you like.

Just remember to set yourself a timer — 45 minutes of social media is a perfect window. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of negative news.

26. Sleep well.

Your body needs seven to eight hours of restorative sleep each night.

Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet for optimal sleep.

27. Practice stress-relaxing techniques.

Meditation isn't difficult — it's very natural and simple. Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet room, close your eyes, and relax your thoughts.

Whatever thoughts come into your head, simply tell yourself, "That’s OK," and then let them pass. Concentrate on something rhythmic, like the exhalation and inhalation of your breaths.

Sometimes, I repeatedly think to myself, "I am relaxed and still." I meditate for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.

Diaphragmatic breathing is deep breathing in the diaphragm. Lie in bed and put a hand over your belly button.

As you breathe in slowly and completely, you want your belly to push your hand out as far as it can. Then, when you begin to exhale slowly, try to get your tummy right up to your spine as your hand moves in that direction as far as it can.

Simply repeat this a number of times — it's very relaxing.

Progressive muscle relaxation or the Jacobson Relaxation Technique creates total body relaxation by "tensing" separate muscle groups and then "relaxing" them.

When you're getting ready for bed, lie down on your back and make yourself comfortable. The key is to progressively tighten groups of muscles and then relax them afterward.

Start with your feet — squeeze and curl your toes and constrict these muscles as tightly as you can. You can hold your breath. Keep the muscles really tight and then relax them as you slowly breathe out.

Then, move up your body to concentrate on your legs, tightening and relaxing these muscles in the same way.

Continue to move up to your buttocks, abdomen, back, shoulders, neck, hands, arms, and face. Progressively tighten these muscle groups and then let go.

After one round, your entire body will feel relaxed and stress-free. It’s a method I love and it always works.

28. Provide your body with nutrients that enhance your immune system.

Stress will destroy your gut microbiome, create systemic inflammation, and weaken your immune system.

You can offset some of the damage by eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory food, drinking natural mineral water that has electrolytes like magnesium and calcium (i.e., Gerolsteiner, Fiji, Evian), and seasoning food with Himalayan salt, which contains 84 minerals and trace elements

29. Satisfy your "need to eat to relieve stress."

Instead of junk food, there are healthier alternatives. Drink more mineral water. For snacks, make hard-boiled eggs and have them on hand.

Choose pork rinds for a salty crunch, or chew on grass-fed beef jerky.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, eat raw honey or enjoy some fruit like various berries, apples, and avocados.

30. Seek help if you need it.

If your feelings of stress have escalated and are getting the best of you, there's help available.

Please take action! Talk about your feelings with a loved one or privately seek assistance from live counselors waiting to hear from you.

(You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.)

I’m not sticking my head in the sand and I don’t believe that all bad things will go away. How ridiculous would that be?

But reframing stress and occupying your time with constructive and supportive activities can give you and your family a healthier perspective when dealing with stress.

For me, I need to feel relevant and productive. That’s my personality, but that may not be yours.

It's important for me to change what I can change and to let go completely of the things that are beyond my control.

This single concept has been a game-changer for me. It might be for you, too.

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Dr. Al Danenberg is a periodontist and was in private practice for 44 years. For more information, visit his website.

This article was originally published at DrDanenberg.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.