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  • Jolene Roehlkepartain

Maneuvering through Chronic Stress

How are you finding your way through the chronic stress of this pandemic? At first, the adjustment was shocking before becoming somewhat novel, but as time wears on, the stress builds.

Researchers study Chronic Unpredictable Stress (CUS) that is defined as prolonged and uncontrollable. That’s where we are: in a chronic unpredictable stress state.

What can we do?

Name the stress—What bothers me may be different than what bothers you. Talk about these particular stresses. Journal. Be compassionate toward each other in regards to what each finds stressful. Together look for ways to reduce each other’s stress.

Move—Chronic stress often shuts people down (after exhausting the initial fight, flight, or freeze aspect of early stress). Even if you don’t feel like it, move. A recent study discovered that a 4-second, high-intensity movement about every 10 to 12 minutes makes a huge difference.

Choose healthy activities—Do breathing exercises. Yoga. An activity you enjoy. Create something. Chronic stress only compounds when we choose unhealthy choices.

“Be sure to give each other a lot of grace, and be kind and forgiving to each other,” says Dani Fallin, chair of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We’re all experiencing heightened levels of uncertainty and anxiety right now. Giving an extra beat of patience to others is critical.”

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