Sleep disturbances, headaches, heartburn are the main symptoms of Covid-19 stress. How to overcome it
When we are about to face an exam or a job interview, our "antennas" are ready to offer an immediate response, increasing the breath, heartbeats, and the body's ability to respond. This is the classic acute stress reaction. And it helps us overcome obstacles. But when the phenomenon lasts over time and becomes chronic, it threatens well-being.
You become irritable, sleep becomes a chimera, digestion slows down, headaches appear. How to defend yourself? Here are the advice of Piero Barbanti, professor of Neurology at the San Raffaele University in Rome.
Covid-19 and health concerns
According to a research by Assosalute, the "National Association of Self-Medication Drugs" in collaboration with Human Highway, Covid-19 has profoundly changed the perception of stress in the last year. For one in three people and at all ages, health has become the number one cause of emotional anxiety, especially for women who even go so far as to declare it as the first source of stress in 40% of cases. The fear of Covid-19 creates anxiety: there are fears of getting sick or that the virus affects loved ones.
Among the concerns, there is also that for work, which affects one in four Italians, especially among men (28%), with particular reference to fears for future prospects. Finally, 15% of the interviewees see the main cause of stress in the limitation to social relationships, a problem felt above all by the youngest and the over 65.
But be careful: there is a "good" and a "bad" stress, as mentioned. "There are two types of stress: a good or physiological one, which allows us to carry out actions that make us overcome problems, and a bad one, which occurs when the reaction that determines the stress is not strictly linked to the triggering factor, but is activated for a nothing and remains active by lowering the threshold for triggering stress, with oxidative and inflammatory damage to the body over time ”- explains Barbanti.
"The alarm bells are represented by those symptoms that do not have a consistent organic basis and are persistent: difficulty concentrating, feeling of tension, unrestful sleep and headache, but also muscle tension, shortness of breath and labor, variation (or perception of variation) of heartbeat, alteration of salivary quantities, heartburn and disorders related to the sexual sphere. "
Beware of loneliness
Symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, sleep disturbances (more common between 25 and 44 years of age), tension and muscle pain (particularly in over 55s) are more common than in the pre-Covid period.
“The pandemic stopped us and put us in front of a condition: loneliness, which forced us to face problems that in the pre-lockdown period could hide in the daily frenzy – continues Barbanti. New anxious people have emerged: subjects who have found themselves faced with a new scenario that has triggered situations of stress. At the beginning of the pandemic, the so-called 'emotional synchronization' occurred, which is a common danger that led people to unite. Soon, however, we were faced with an unprecedented infodemic that generated intrusive thoughts, blocking the brain's ability to move beyond the current problem ”.
The analysis shows that asking the doctor for advice and taking self-medication for small transient annoyances are the two most common behaviors in the case of minor stress-related disorders, respectively adopted by 42.7% and 41.7% of the interviewees.
But it is also necessary to “react” and protect oneself with adequate lifestyles. According to the research, sleep and proper nutrition are the most common ones for taking care of oneself, adopted respectively by 39% and 34% of the sample. This is followed by sport and physical activity (23.8%), more typical of men than women, and taking time to devote oneself to one's favorite activities, being alone, with one's loved ones, or in contact with nature.
"Practicing motor activity is important, since in that case brain activity is subordinate to physical activity – concludes Barbanti. Another very helpful activity is reading a good book. Reading forces our brain to dream and slow down, to produce images that are different from those we see on screens all day. With regard to foods, alcohol and coffee should be limited, as well as foods containing saturated fats which increase inflammation levels. In this sense, following a good Mediterranean diet is the best antidote ”.