"Very few people are ever really carefree. But there are moments of bliss. "
-- Louise Penny, All the Devils Are Here

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Cure for Stress

     Right now the best cure for stress is the Covid vaccine. Several people have told me recently that they hadn't even realized they were suffering from stress, but as soon as they got their shot they felt the weight of anxiety fall off their shoulders. Suddenly they could breathe.

     But if you're like me, and haven't been able to get a shot yet, you're still feeling the stress. There's stress from the self-isolation that has just . . . gone . . . on. . . too . . . long. And stress from waiting for the vaccination . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting.

     I counted up. I am on six different lists to get a shot. But so far nothing has come through. I just sit here, waiting, feeling like I have no control over the situation.

     Stress can cause a lot of problems. I remember in the few years before I retired, when my company was stumbling and losing profits and laying off people, I suffered from a pinched nerve in my neck, causing pain and numbness in my arm. I had to go to physical therapy and once even had to wear one of those neck collars.

     As soon as I left work, those problems went away. No more stress, no more pinched nerve.

    So now in the face of Covid I along with everyone else have been trying to keep the stress at bay. How do we do it?

     A lot of people turn to meditation and mindfulness. Honestly, I'm not too big on meditation. I don't do yoga. But I can still do things to calm my mind, to focus on the present and stop worrying about things I can't control. So I try to carve out 15 minutes a day to just relax and breathe and release the tension in my muscles. It works, at least sometimes.

     I also know that exercise is a good antidote to stress. My usual forms of exercise -- golf and table tennis and occasionally swimming -- are closed off to me these days. About the only thing left to do is take a walk. I'm not an enthusiastic walker or hiker. I just don't find it that interesting. But when I do take a walk, every two or three days, it clears my mind and makes me feel better. I should do it more often.

     Stretching is another stress reducer. I got in the habit of stretching when I had my neck problem. To this day I'm pretty good about keeping a regimen. I do a short set after my daily shower working on my back and legs, and another set before I go to bed to ease out the kinks in my neck and shoulders.

    We all know that having a strong social support system helps us deal with stress. I'm lucky to have B. But I also look forward to my Zoom calls, when I feel engaged with other people's lives. The same goes for my senior classes. I'm taking a history class on the Civil War. It's interesting, informative, and certainly does put my own problems into perspective. Same with my discussion group and my book group -- we talk about issues larger than ourselves, and the sharing of ideas and experiences always makes our own worries seem a little more manageable. 

     I also try to eat a good diet -- go easy on the sugar and drink plenty of water. This is easier for me in the winter, since my weakness is ice cream, and even I don't want to eat ice cream when there's snow on the ground. I try to have a good breakfast -- orange juice, fruit, oatmeal or other high-fiber cereal -- and B keeps me on the straight and narrow at dinnertime. She goes easy on the meat; and no meal is served without at least one green vegetable, and sometimes two. 

     The effects of stress are cumulative, so it makes sense that we're more stressed now than we were back in he spring or summer. But reducing stress also has a cumulative effect. The more we consciously manage the stress, the better we get at it and the better we feel. So we'll get through this without going crazy or having a heart attack or turning to alcohol or drugs.

     After we get the vaccine we still have to be careful -- wash hands, wear masks, keep our distance when we can -- but at least we'll know that we're doing something that makes a difference. That in itself mitigates the stress.

     I read that as of Thursday more than 50 million doses of vaccine had been administered in the U. S. So it can't be that long before they get to me, can it?

23 comments:

gigi-hawaii said...

Well, you are better than me. I don't do zoom calls, engage in discussion groups or attend history lectures. I prefer to pray, buy and collect plants, watch TV and movies, etc. To each his own. We are alive simply because we know how to cope with stress. If you are dead, well, that says everything.

Rian said...

I do feel stress is a big problem... not necessarily with me, but in general. The thing is, Tom, sometimes we don't even know how stressed we are. I don't feel particularly stressed, at least not any more than anyone else, and surely less than some. But... with the pandemic and this Arctic cold spell here in Texas, perhaps it's 'internal' and shows itself with headaches and trouble sleeping, etc.
And I have to say that both DH and I have noticed that since we were 'contacted' yesterday (finally) and now have appointments for the vaccine, we do feel a bit more relaxed (that and the Texas 2021 winter disaster seems to coming to a close - more or less).

Arkansas Patti said...

I was one of those who found immense relief with the Covid shot. Can't wait to see what the second one does for me.
The sad thing about stress is that we don't know when we are in its grip. You are right, exercises either mental or physical can help to dissipate it before it can do damage.

Celia said...

I was definitely more relaxed after my first vaccination. The snow and ice here retreated so I was fortunate enough to get my second shot today. I am absolutely cheerier. We've been lucky with access here in E WA and the local health department did an amazing job of organizing it.

ApacheDug said...

The only stress I get is from flare-ups of chronic pain in my face or my side that can last 1-2 weeks. Other than that, I think I live with a general feeling of malaise that I've grown accustomed to. I know how deadly stress can be, my last few years of work, high blood pressure and hands shaking in the mornings... that's all gone now. I was very fortunate to have saved enough to retire early like I did. I can't even worry about covid, I probably won't get my shot until early fall if I'm lucky. I'm a hermit anyway, so no worries!

Olga said...

I have not had the vaccine yet. I wasn't thinking I was stressed about it but I have been noticing a brain fog thing and that could be how the stress is affecting me.

Terra said...

Cumulative stress over a long period of time is bad for our health, mental and physical. I am in California and I got my second vaccination yesterday, which makes me exhausted today. Like you said, I hope in two weeks my stress will lift; it takes two weeks after the second shot for the protection to occur. I read the Bible and pray every day, two good stress relief activities, as I know Jesus cares for me. Also lots of Zoom meetings are most of my social life now.

Tom at Sightings said...

Gigi, I think praying, gardening and watching movies are all excellent ways to help fend off stress. And Doug I'm glad to hear your bp and hands are okay, but do you think the malaise might be connected to stress? Anyway, I agree on the two key points: 1) sometimes we don't even know how stressed we are, and 2) it accumulates over time and can really affect our health and so we need to first recognize it, then do something about it. Be well, be safe, be kind.

ApacheDug said...

Tom you make a good point; I've been reading up on this some and you're correct that the two (stress and blue feelings) are often connected. I think it's just the time of year too, I'm sure you know what I mean as we're both Pennsylvanians. It's been nothing but temps in the teens & snow this season.

Sue said...

Greetings fellow Pennsylvanians.

Kay said...

It's been very helpful for me to have several chat groups going with teacher friends in Illinois, tai chi friends here on Oahu, cousins on Kauai, my brother, and other friends. Every day, friends and relatives keep a text conversation always on call. I guess it's just a lift to know there are people that care. My Illinois teacher friends are constantly helping each other figure out the best way to get their COVID shots. I do feel better knowing I'm a little protected after getting my 1st Pfizer last week. I'll feel even better next month, if I'm successful getting my second. I sure hope you and Doug both get your shots soon.

Red said...

Good point about managing stress. Stress is a killer. I like walking and when the temperature is suitable I get in lots of walking. I've always stretched...well, not always but for a long time. And I'm over 80 and don't see any vaccine on the horizon yet.

DJan said...

I finally got an appointment for a Covid shot, and I could feel how much better I felt just from having gotten it. Then because of weather, etc., it was canceled, and I try every single day to get myself and hubby onto a list. I hope it will be soon, but I'm managing to handle the stress with three yoga classes a week (via Zoom) and plenty of walking. I find listening to podcasts while walking helps when I have to walk in town instead of in the forests.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! So sorry to hear you haven't been able to get a vaccine shot yet. I know it was a struggle for me for about a month as I kept trying to get an "appointment" while others seemed to be able to get one and yet they eluded me. Then almost out of the blue someone told me to call a number and the very next day we both went in for a shots. And yes, just doing that seemed to make a difference. All I can say is hang in there. Your "call" could come tomorrow (well Monday for sure!) and you never know. It is coming and yes, it offers hope for the future. Meanwhile keep doing what you are doing! ~Kathy

Bethany @ Happily Loco said...

I get physical symptoms with stress, and it will be interesting to see what unexpected things go away after I finally get my vaccine (I am 42 and healthy, but I am a teacher, so we will get some priority, although not much). I have had a psychosomatic stuffy nose and cough for almost a year now!

Happy said...

I have stayed busy with various church committees and a nurses group that meets once a month or so on Zoom. I have quilting for a hobby and my husband needs more assist now that he has back and hip problems. Over the past week I have painted the bathroom since it was so cold outside. I was able to receive my first vaccine through the VA and it was easy. They called me and asked if I would like the COVID vaccine and I said "sure". Husband who is older and has more chronic conditions is still waiting for a call from the civilian world since he is not a veteran.

Laurie Stone said...

I'm strangely okay with the isolation, although miss lunches and dinners with family and friends. Yoga helps me a lot and the Calm app I use almost everyday for mediation. Keep the faith, Tom. That vaccine will come in and slowly your life will come back.

Snowbrush said...

I can honestly say that Peggy and I are doing everything we can to avoid Covid, which, in our case, is a lot. Yet I've no doubt but what a weight will be lifted when we get the vaccine, assuming that vaccine defeating variants haven't developed, as they surely will eventually.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Sorry, it's taking so long for you to get a vaccine appointment. Walking is my best stress reliever. Now that my dog is 13, I bought her a stroller so I could walk faster and get more exercise. My roommates and I also meet in the morning and do exercises on Youtube for people over 50. It makes a huge difference. And yes, now that I've had both shots, it's like a huge weight lifted off my shoulder.

Carol Cassara said...

We are heading back to CA today so we are schedule for our shots therein March. But most of myfriends already have had them.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm in the same boat for the vaccine. As Daughter (front line worker) said yesterday we're all in some form of mental breakdown and the aftereffects of this will be around for years. I know many children here have wound up in the hospital with breakdowns. Stats that are not published.

I too practice meditation and find it enormously helpful to take time away from all the media noise etc.

Strange times and increasingly hard to remember "Before Times".

XO
WWW

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

I know that stress you speak of. I had it in my last job, it was an eye twitch though. Really bad, all day long. Only vacations and the end of the job made it go away.

Linda Myers said...

We got our second shots last week. I keep pretty busy, with several adult learning classes, a couple of zoom meetings with people from my faith community (UU), helping my son start his remodeling business, and supporting my husband in his quest for sciatica relief. Next week (14 days after the second shot) I'll start water exercise again. It helps that Tucson almost always has sunny days and glorious sunsets. I have talked to a couple of friends this week who tell me they're busy, but nothing is really engaging them. I'm guessing it's situational low-grade depression. Thanks a lot, covid.