Fight or flight? Pandemic creating overwhelming stress

Jul 8, 2020 | Featured | 0 comments

BY D’ARCY EGAN

Eons ago, people were hunter gatherers, and dealt with disaster in two basic ways, said David S. Prudhomme, founder and director of Mederi Wellness in Port Clinton.

“Because of the enormous stress so many are experiencing around the country and globally in trying to relate to Covid-19, we’re returning to those fight or flight mechanisms which kept our ancestors alive,” said Prudhomme. “They would either fight to stay alive, or take flight to avoid the danger.”

Globally, people stressed by Covid-19 may think the worst is going to happen, triggering the fight or flight response, said Prudhomme. Their adrenalin shoots up, metabolism slows down, hormones become out of balance and their immune systems are negatively affected.

“Because of the pandemic, people who are already suffering from anxiety risk increasing it. The bad things in their lives — smoking, drugs or alcohol — are going to increase,” he said.

What is needed is a pattern interruption. That interruption can allow people to replace the negatives of their fight or flight urges that are causing stress and anxiety with positive actions. The pandemic itself is a global pattern interruption, which provide each of us the opportunity to positively change the patterns in our own lives.

Prudhomme’s tips for creating a more positive lifestyle in spite of the global pandemic, include:

Every morning when you wake up, think of three things you are grateful for. They might be small or large things, or even the same things as the day before. The practice calms the mind and starts your day in a positive way. Start the day with the Relaxation Response, discovered in 1940 by Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard University, a deep breathing exercise that creates the opposite of fight or flight in your mind and body. For two or three minutes, breathe in deeply through your nose, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Much like yoga preaches, you need to breathe using your diaphragm, much like our ancestor hunter gatherers did as they walked many miles every day in order to find food and shelter.

Eat healthy, balanced meals. Try to avoid processed foods. Keep a routine.

Move your body for at least 20 minutes each day with exercise or long walks. This releases endorphines, dopamine and serotonin, the feel-good hormones in your body.

Head to the woods or wilderness. Nature and fresh air in itself is healing. It is something the whole family can do without exposing themselves to numbers of people.

Focus on the positive and practice gratitude with others to increase your sense of well-being.

Get lost in a good book to stimulate your mind, improve your life or learn something new.

Call, text or have a Zoom conference with friends or family. Be positive and optimistic.

Take up a new hobby, such as fishing, or work on a home project.

Meditate. Prudhomme recommends a free app, Insight Timer, which can be used on the way to work, before sleep or when you need a quick minute to breathe during a hectic day.

Prudhomme also has suggestions on what not to do, things that can consume stressed or depressed souls.

Don’t go to places that are risky, which includes any place that will draw a crowd. Taverns and pubs that fail to require face coverings and social distancing are at the top of the list.

Limit your time on social media. Information is rampant, and social media can create destructive fear and anger.

Stay informed, but avoid being exposed to round-the-clock cable news stations.

Stress is normal to feel during a pandemic, so don’t feel like you are weird.

If depression or anxiety is dragging you down, don’t be afraid to ask for help, including professional help.

Now is the time to change your habits and patterns, said Prudhomme, and enjoy a healthier, happier life.

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