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Why does lockdown increase stress and what can you do about it?

  • Written by Scene Magazine

With much of the country still in lockdown, many Australians are experiencing the symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety, leading to lockdown fatigue which leaves us feeling tired and drained for weeks on end. The prolonged stress has caused a spike in people accessing mental health services and many report feeling unable to sleep or focus.

According to the Australian Psychological Society lockdown fatigue occurs when people have yet to come to terms with COVID which has affected almost every aspect of their lives and has continued to do so for months on end sometimes with no end in sight. Anyone can be affected by lockdown fatigue, even people in areas where there are few or no cases of COVID. Stress can trigger the body’s fight, flight or freeze response and constant stress can prime the body and brain to only focus on survival, meaning you might be caught in a loop of anger, fear and aggression. So how do you cope when faced with such immense pressure?

The Australian Psychological Society advises that you should try to be kind to yourself and accept that you may be more tired, unproductive and unmotivated than usual. Relaxation is essential to managing the strain of lockdown, and helps put you in a state of calm where you feel more able to manage day-to-day life. The health benefits of relaxation include:

  • lowering your heart rate and blood pressure
  • reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • improving concentration and mood
  • reducing fatigue
  • reducing anger and frustration
  • increasing confidence in your ability to handle problems

In lockdown it can be a challenge to carve out the time and mental space to engage in relaxation but there are many ways to ensure a greater likelihood of success.

Prioritise structure

Structure helps us gain control over our lives and puts basic acts of self-care on autopilot when we are in emotional turmoil. In lockdown it’s easy to drift into a state of apathy and let go of our sense of time. This can lead to people sleeping badly, napping for too long at inappropriate hours and eat too much or forget to eat or tend to their personal hygiene.

Try to create and stick to a routine even if you don’t feel like it. Having a routine will help get you through feelings of tiredness and overcome lack of motivation. The APS recommends having set times for sleep, meals, work, rest and exercise. Scheduling regular breaks to go out and get fresh air is a great way to relax and recharge.

Sleep

Stress and anxiety can keep you up at night or you may find yourself sleeping more than usual. Some other red flags that you’re rapidly approaching burn out include moodiness, overeating and abusing alcohol and drugs. Professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia Steven Taylor says its vital to maintain a healthy lifestyle to mitigate the impact of lockdown fatigue.

Exercise in particular is a powerful way to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety, releasing feel-good hormones endorphins and improving the quality of sleep. Having a good sleep routine and making sure you get plenty of exposure to natural light during the day helps to prime the body for sleep. The Sleep Foundation also recommends limiting electronic devices one hour before bed and making sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. If you’re still having trouble getting to sleep, the Foundation advises getting up to do a relaxing activity for 20 minutes in low light before going back to bed.

Eat a healthy diet

Food plays a much greater role in managing mood and anxiety than previously thought; there have been multiple studies that have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function. A diet high in processed foods can have an effect on worsening mood symptoms such as depression.

A diet rich in high quality food will give your body the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to function at its best. Traditionally brewed herbal tonics like NudeHerb’s Relax is a great way to get beneficial herbs and vitamins in your system as a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The plant based tonic which has no added sugar or artificial additives contains soothing lemon balm, which is reported to have a sedative effect, passionflower, hops, damiana, holy basil and hibiscus.

With many people reporting increased emotional eating in lockdown it also becomes more important to incorporate low calorie options as a way to prevent unwanted weight gain. At less than 70 calories per serve, Relax has a refreshing natural mango flavour with no unpleasant bitter herbal aftertaste.

“Our drinks have been brewed with the same techniques used by ancient Persians for thousands of years,” says NudeHerbs founder Dr. Ali Karami, a research and development scientist with years of experience in the field of food and beverage science. “Relax is a way to help manage mood and anxiety. We are all feeling the effects of lockdown stress and more than ever we are looking for ways to boost our mood and keep calm. By making sure we are looking after ourselves through good diet and self-care, we increase our capacity for getting through difficult times.”