By Shana Palmieri, May 19, 2021

A comparative analysis completed by the NHIS and U.S. Census Bureau shows an increase of 11 percent of adults reporting symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder in January-June 2019 compared to 41.1 percent in 2021. A variety of stressors as a result of the pandemic contributed to this increase and continue to impact stress levels including:

  • Financial stressors
  • Social isolation
  • Fear and uncertainty of the future
  • Remote school learning
  • Loss of loved ones to COVID

As the stressors continue, the initial acute stress experienced as a result of the pandemic can transition into chronic stress causing a lasting impact with serious symptoms for many.  Chronic stress is a prolonged state of stress that does not give the body an opportunity to activate the relaxation response.  There are numerous negative consequences from a constant state of physiological arousal caused by the body maintaining a chronic stress response.

Symptoms of chronic stress include aches and pains, decreased energy, insomnia, fatigue, difficulty with concentration, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, anxiety, depression, decreased immune response, irritability, nervousness, feeling a loss of control and helplessness.

If chronic stress is left untreated, it can turn into more serious conditions including major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder(s), diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, ulcers and weight changes.

[Editor’s note: On July 21, Shana will present Dealing With Employee Mental Health Challenges During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic.]

Returning the body to a state of relaxation is pertinent for the healing process to begin. Healing the body from the impact of chronic stress takes consistent effort and the constant practice of healthy habits.  Stress reducing habits to heal from chronic stress include:

  • Healthy sleep patterns – at least 7-8 hours a night
  • Daily exercise
  • Yoga/mindfulness meditation practice
  • Healthy diet
  • Connection through healthy relationships
  • Setting boundaries to maintain work/life balance
  • Talking with a therapist

Keeping the body in a healthy, relaxed state through the practice of healthy habits will create a state within the body better able to fight illness and will reduce the physical and mental symptoms of chronic stress. If you are a loved one are experiencing suicidal ideation, help is available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. [email protected]

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