(NEW YORK) – COVID-19 has touched every corner of the world – and fear, anxiety and grief followed in its wake. The pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health and well-being of many, due to the rising death toll, social isolation, constant internal monologue for some asking ‘do I have the virus? And more, say the experts.
Mental health and physical health are closely related, and stress can sometimes manifest itself physically, experts say. So if you have migraines, missed your period, lost your hair, or have other irregularities in your daily life, it may be due to pandemic stress, they said.
“Think of it as erosion,” said Craig Sawchuk, psychologist at the Mayo Clinic, in an interview. “It just leads to wear and tear over time.”
However, there may be other underlying causes for these issues. The ailments a person experiences during a stressful time shouldn’t be attributed to stress alone, and the Mayo Clinic recommends that symptoms be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
According to psychology experts, when people experience mental stress, there is a fight-or-flight response from the central nervous system.
Sawchuk said that the body uses a large amount of energy to cope with the threat, which is why people may experience adrenaline rush, high heart rate, increased blood pressure, heavier breathing. and tight muscles.
Because of the amount of energy needed to fight what causes stress, vital organs, muscles and systems steal resources from other nonessential systems in the body, said Kory Floyd, professor of communication and communication. psychology at the University of Arizona.
“The mind is like, ‘These systems are important, but they are not if our survival is at stake.'” Floyd told ABC News. “When you take resources out of these systems, they don’t perform optimally, which is why we end up with an upset stomach or why we end up having a hard time getting pregnant, why we end up with a pain. headache or hard times sleeping. “
When this acute stress lasts for long periods of time, like an almost two-year-old pandemic, it can cause damage to the body’s less essential systems and disrupt their functions.
“It’s almost like the sympathetic nervous system volume button has just been pressed the entire time,” Sawchuk told ABC News. “It shuts down other systems, like digestion and reproduction. This is where you get things like missed periods, low libido… hair loss and skin related issues because we don’t go into a restore mode.
Stress begins to affect people deeply physically. According to experts, it may look different to each individual, but some symptoms are more common than others.
“The body can only produce a certain number of symptoms,” Sawchuk said. “When we look at each individual, they may tend to express their distress or experience this stress in different ways. So for some people it can show up in their skin, like acne or psoriasis.
Sawchuk added, “To other people, it can show up in terms of exhaustion.”
Clinical psychologists interviewed by ABC News say they have seen an increase in reports of headaches, migraines and sleep disturbances among patients during the pandemic.
Chronic stress can also cause digestive issues and stomach issues. Low libido and missed menstrual cycles – which aren’t caused by pregnancy – can also be signs that stress is starting to disrupt her reproductive system.
A study in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that cases of short-term stress-related alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, increased after the onset of the pandemic, and researchers expected the number to continue to increase. Other dermatological diseases linked to psychiatry are also expected to increase, including psoriasis and chronic urticaria.
Aches and pains in the body, especially tension in the jaw and neck, can also be due to stress.
American Institute of Stress writer Cindy Ackrill says it’s okay to take steps to relieve stress and improve mental health. These issues won’t be fixed in the blink of an eye, Ackrill says, and there are some easy ways to start the healing process.
“The first thing is to notice what tends to turn you on and what tends to calm you down,” Ackrill said. “You can go back to balancing these – which drains your energy, which gives you energy back – so you can strategize to put them back into the immediate sense of stress.”
Experts say that not controlling stress-related issues can lead to serious long-term health problems. If you have symptoms of chronic or severe stress, seek help.
“Look for the little differences you can make,” Ackrill advised. “Go to bed five minutes earlier, spend five minutes on the phone with a friend. Look for small changes you can make that don’t seem like a lot of work.
Ackrill added, “We live in a very stressful world and we are all on a journey together to find out how to do it.”
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