In this article, you’ll learn about:
How Anxiety & Stress Affect Your Body

To put it simply, stress is your body’s built-in response to immediate danger. Anxiety—the apprehension or fear of what’s to come—is your body’s natural reaction to stress. Anxiety often shows up in intrusive thoughts, nightmares, panic attacks, and obsessive thoughts or behaviors. Like stress, anxiety is a biological response that’s meant to be short-term. After all, stress and anxiety are what kept the cavemen alive! That means that anxiety and stress are two sides of the same coin, and both can have a negative effect on your body, as well as your peace of mind.

The symptoms of stress and anxiety can range from mild symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension to severe symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat. Over time, these symptoms can take a toll on your whole body. So while anxiety and stress are a biological reaction to the threat, they’re also a reaction that can be controlled, so the crisis doesn’t compromise your health. Let’s get started on busting that anxiety!

Allow Yourself a Daily “Worry Time”

It might sound counterintuitive to relieve anxiety by worrying, but it makes sense. Here’s how: allowing yourself to have a set, scheduled “worry time” reduces the pressure of trying to be strong in the face of danger. Many people are juggling worries about Covid, from taking care of the family, figuring out income, to what life will be like after the crisis passes. Knowing that you have an outlet for all that anxiety during your “worry time” can help you hold it together. Think of “worry time” like a “pity party”—allow yourself to get all your feelings out, and then move on for the rest of the day.

Take Social Media Breaks

First off: If you feel yourself pulled to refresh your news feed about a crisis every 15 minutes, put your parental locks or internet settings to the test and restrict access to these pages until the crisis passes. Next up: social media. Social media can feel like a lifeline to other people, and that’s true! But use it in small, controlled doses.

Why? Because social media is also full of misinformation, trolls, and doomsday planners. None of which helps relieve stress—they actually increase anxiety! So, like “worry time”, allow yourself a dedicated block of social media time, or break up your social media time into 10- or 15-minute blocks throughout the day. After you’ve spent your block, instead try video chatting with friends and family, make phone calls, send emails, or write a letter. Instead of filtering your remote connections through social media, make them as personal as you can.

Relax with a Kitten Video

Did you know there’s a proven connection between stress relief and watching videos of cute animals? It’s true! Not only does watching videos of cute animals immediately relieve anxiety, it also helps you build resistance to future stressors and sources of anxiety. So, if you’re in a position where you’re cooped up indoors and stressing out about the future, watching videos of cute animals is helpful and enjoyable. How does it work, you ask? Animal videos lift your mood immediately, and in psychology terms, it’s called “inducing positive effect.” What that means is that seeing a kitten video makes you happy, and by making you happy, your brain allows you to see more resources, more outcomes, and more solutions. In short, a kitten video can show you potential, instead of negativity. If you’re tired of scrolling YouTube, here are a few zoos, aquariums, and pet rescue organizations that have live feeds to watch:

Try Simple Indoor Breathing & Grounding Exercises

Since many of the symptoms of stress and anxiety take you out of your body (dizziness, nausea, headaches, etc.), breathing and grounding exercises can put you back into your body. Luckily, there are a lot of easy breathing and grounding exercises you can do indoors.
  • Meditation. You don’t need a lot of space to do it, and there’s no fancy equipment required (unless you want to try an app.) If you’re looking for a guided meditation, try looking through podcasts to find one that appeals to you. Otherwise, all you need to meditate is a quiet space where you can sit uninterrupted and allow your mind to empty as you focus on only your breathing.

  • Controlled Breathing. This one is even easier than mediation, and you can do it anywhere, anytime you feel anxiety creeping in. There are many controlled breathing exercises that you can try out if you find the practice helps you. But the easiest one to start with is the relaxing, centering deep breathing technique. Here’s how to do it: Draw your elbows backward slightly, allowing your chest to expand. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your lungs to fill. Hold the breath to the count of 5, then slowly exhale the breath through your nose.

  • Yoga. Even if you’re not a “yoga person,” learning a few basic yoga positions can help bring you back to your body when anxiety starts to pull you away from it. Some of the recommended yoga poses for anxiety relief include the bridge pose, cat pose, cow pose, and extended puppy pose.

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