More than a year of living through a pandemic and significant social change has levied a toll on us. There exists immense loss and trauma on many personal fronts. Unfortunately, we will see the effects in rising cases of mental health concerns (especially among our young adults, those in their teens and early 20s). A survey, Stress in America taken at the beginning of 2021, “reveal[s] that physical health may be declining due to an inability to cope in healthy ways with the stresses of the pandemic.” It provides tips on how to identify unhealthy coping skills, such as making poor food choices, drinking and other unhealthy means to manage the increased levels of stress, and offers ways to change those behaviors.
Here, I highlight the layered impacts of stress in order to provide a multifaceted approach to stress relief. The aim is to target each of those layers of impact and establish a wellness approach to carry you through the remaining phases of this year, in the short term, and hopefully establish a lifestyle for the long haul.
One layer is the mental realm that is affected at various levels. At the emotional level stress triggers reactive responses such as hypersensitivity, anxiety, flight-fight-freeze response, or feelings of sadness and despair. At the behavioral level one may exhibit hostility or be non-cooperative or argumentative. And at the cognitive level (a mental-physical space) stress leads to poor decision-making and affects memory and organizational skills, leading to loss of productivity.
Next is the energetic layer, an intermediary level that comprises our relational connections between the mental and the physical (both of our bodies and of the world around us). This is the level that regulates how we interact with our environment, our object relations with the world. This field is filtered through our psyche and felt through our bodies. Stress affects our energetic levels by leading to a withdrawal from others, from the things we enjoy. We often describe it as a sense of disconnection that can lead to lethargy, which literally means ‘a lack of energy and enthusiasm’ for life.
It is key to remember that if we can regulate some of the emotional and physical stress markers, we can bring more healthy dynamics into play with your relationships, including with our self. This allows us to read those energetic clues about others with more clarity. Often anger, stress and pain cloud our ability to read these signals clearly, thus affecting the course of our relationships. Stress impedes our ability to re-energize our psyche and physical state of wellbeing if it goes unchecked.
There is the physical space where stress shows more visible markers. Stress increases heart rate levels, changes in appetite, leads to body tension, and tension-building headaches, among other signs, which could ultimately lead to a compromised immune system. More extreme conditions, such as ulcers, may develop when stress becomes chronic.
Ignoring these multitude of symptoms can lead to more complex mental health issues such as substance abuse, increased anxiety, depression, and the predisposition to illness. Given the varied levels of impact that stress has on our mind, body and energetic spirit, one should approach stress relief with a well-rounded philosophy to healthy living in general. Of course, nature is the most effective space to realign all layers in tandem.
Here are several things that you can do to engage each level:
Self-care habits of proper diet, stretching and exercise, getting enough sleep, minimal drinking – all help us work through the stress and tension that affects us physically. Stretching regularly, getting massages, acupuncture or other treatments to release built-up tension are extremely helpful in curbing the physical effects of stress. Deep-breathing is a simple practice that takes 2-5 minutes of mindful breathing, filling the belly on your inhale and emptying the chest and belly on the exhale. Deep breathing lowers blood pressure and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. It engages the parasympathetic nervous system that works as a medium between our energetic, mental and physical levels, by naturally reversing the stress response, our ‘flight, fight, freeze’ response to stress.
Connections of all types are the life force that sustains us. Staying connected to others through whatever means of communication helps build our interpersonal spaces. And working through challenges with love and self-compassion helps us connect with others in order to manage our difficult moments with support. The energetic level thrives off the vibrational energy that comes from deeply felt bonds. Also, that of music, aesthetics, the energy of life in nature, spiritual connection and especially by developing one’s talents and passions.
Finally, using calming techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, Tai Chi, etc., all help us work through some of the emotional and behavioral effects of stress. Bringing us into mind, body, spiritual balance to help place our focus on our work, family (wherever you place value) and strengthen our cognitive states of mind. Mindfulness techniques, practicing gratitude and being in the present moment – on a consistent basis – allows calm to resonate through all levels of the self, and puts one in a state of mind that is physiologically incompatible with some stages of stress.
The various alternative treatment methods provided by Ketamine Health Centers are helpful for individuals at every level of the mental health spectrum. We offer wellness procedures and resources to help you manage stress and create that necessary balance in your life. And we provide the latest techniques available to treat mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain and more. Please reach out today for a free consultation to learn how we can help you or your loved one find the best treatment tailored to your needs.