I have just watched a tweet of a golden retriever eyeing Darth Vader warily on the TV it is watching. Increasingly stressed by the growing image of the cloaked and villainous spectre, it gives up to cower behind the sofa. That’s a healthy reaction and we share much of the same biology as that retriever.
Stress is both our reaction to a perceived threat and a description of how we feel as we react. It is protective, normal and in a healthy way, has evolved to get us out of danger and harm. Not so good is to be living in a constant state of it. Our body’s stress-related responses include fighting, fleeing, freezing (remaining still as a statue) and folding (rolling over and giving up); we have them to protect us from external harms.
However, if such harms are longer-term e.g. relational stress, unemployment, loneliness–it can activate our on-off biology for longer and can result in chronic anxiety, depression, ill-health and make other conditions that we might have worse.
Stress is both our reaction to a perceived threat and a description of how we feel as we react
But the very good news is that those healthy relationships, meeting up with others, cups of tea, chatting, making new friends and mending things together, gardening, walking, and fresh air, all reduce our stress biology and are proven to be very positive for overall health and wellbeing. Effectively, in the medium-long term, they are acting as anti-inflammatories.
Covid-19 has been truly awful, but its days are numbered
Covid-19 has been truly awful, but its days are numbered. Many of us, myself included, have experienced anxiety, lowered mood, depression, and settling for less. Yet I’m also greatly relieved to have made many new friends through our Shed and can still chat over the phone, send messages on What’sApp, go for a socially-distanced walk, chat on Zoom, garden in our small allotment, have a virtual breakfast or balti together, share jokes, pictures and thoughts, have people drop off broken things for mending.
All of the above reduces the stress of feeling stressed and break the loop of introspection. There are also helpful resources for relaxing our stress biology, including exercising, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, online resources – https://www.foundationforpositivementalhealth.com; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8EVlJah6AQ
Chris Manning Sheddington.