Fitness Magazine

Yoga for Pandemic-Related Chronic Stress

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina

Yoga for Pandemic-Related Chronic Stress

Power Headache by Judy Chicago

Remember when we used to count the number of weeks we were into the pandemic? Then when it became the number of months? Now, I don’t even have the number of months on the tip of my tongue—though I could calculate it easily because I do always remember that it started—for us, anyway—in March 2020. But the point is that it has been well over a year that we’ve all been under an extra load of stress. And what I’m starting to see is that some people in my world are starting to crack a bit under the strain of the chronic stress they’ve sustained during this period. Yes, things are starting to look up. Many of us are fully vaccinated and are resuming some of our old “normal” activities, so many people seem to be feeling relieved and optimistic. But I’m also seeing some people who seem to be suffering worse than ever, either with anxiety or depression. And I’m starting to wonder if that isn’t because all those months and months of chronic stress just pushed them over the edge. And I know from personal experience that once too much chronic stress pushes you over the edge, it’s not that easy to return to balance even when your circumstances improve.

So what’s the big deal with chronic stress anyway? In my post About Stress: Acute Versus Chronic I defined “chronic stress” by saying that unlike acute stress, which is short-lived and in response to a single event, chronic stress is ongoing stress that never lets up. And I gave examples of many different life circumstances that can cause chronic stress, from job pressures, marriage or family problems, and financial or health problems to living in a stressful environment, such as a dangerous neighborhood or war zone. Looking at that list now, I noticed right away that for more than a year we all been living in a “stressful environment” and many of us have also been dealing with some or all of the personal challenges that I listed. So it’s not surprising that chronic stress is a problem for so many at this point.And why is that a problem? You see, when your nervous system is continuously on the alert, and your body and mind never have a chance to recover and recuperate, your body and mind become overtaxed. And some of the serious health problems that can be caused by chronic stress include mental as well as physical problems:

  1. Chronic anxiety or depression
  2. Insomnia and/or fatigue
  3. Digestive disorders
  4. Headaches
  5. Weakened immune system
  6. Heart disease
  7. Hypertension (high blood pressure)
I’m definitely hearing about people suffering from the first four of these health problems especially. See here for more information on chronic stress.And what do I mean by going over the edge? That is just something that I’ve observed can happen to people when they reach a kind of limit with chronic stress but don’t heed the warning signs. The first time I watched it happen was when my husband was finishing his Ph.D. at MIT. He had a post-doc lined up at Cambridge University, but was having trouble wrapping up his thesis on time and in addition to that because we were moving to England, we had to sell our apartment, move our possession into storage, find a place to live in Cambridge where we knew no one and had never been before, and, oh, yes, I was pregnant. There was so much for him to do and so much pressure him to do it quickly that even though he began having heart palpitations, hypothermia, and panic attacks, he kept working feverishly through his to-do list. But even after he completed his Ph.D. and we made it to England, his symptoms of chronic stress continued. Now he says he thinks it took more than a year for him to feel normal again. I said to him last night that in my post Walking Away from the Edge, I wrote, “Unfortunately, many of us think we should be capable of anything, so we only find our edge after going over it.” He said, “Yes, that’s it exactly.”So if you or anyone you know is going through this now, I want you to know that it’s normal and also that yoga can help! I’m going to provide some links to posts that you might find helpful below but first I want to say that as effective as yoga can be, getting results can take some time. After all, if chronic stress has been ongoing for a long period of time, healing from it can also take time. So please read my post Take Your Time: Results from Yoga Practice, which talks about a study showing how practicing regularly for months is what will really produce results.Here are some posts with ideas with background information about some of the conditions that can be caused by chronic stress and ideas for what to practice:
Stress Management for When You’re Stressed for general information about how to reduce your stress levels
Yoga for Anxiety: The Big Picture for specific information about how to reduce anxiety
Practicing Yoga for Depression: An Overview for specific information about how to relieve depression
When You Can’t Sleep: Yoga Solutions for Insomnia for specific information about how to improve your sleep
How Yoga Helps Your Digestive System for specific information about how to improve your digestion
How Yoga Can Help with Headaches for specific information about how to relieve headache pain and prevent headaches
How Yoga Helps Your Immune System for specific information about how to strengthen your immune systemHeart Health and Yoga: An Overview for specific information about both heart and cardiovascular system problems
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