Stress is a widely known culprit for many health issues and living in uncertain times is having many negative effects on both mental and physical health. While the long-term effects of the pandemic are not yet known, past studies seem to indicate that increased stress could be an indicator for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later on.
One example of this is a 2013 study that focused on 800 Swedish women. To conduct the study, the researchers assessed the participants throughout a 37-year period, during the women’s 30s and 50s. They made note of stress levels during challenging life events, including mental illness, loss of employment, divorce and bereavement along with other stress-inducing events. Of the 800 women, around 20 percent developed dementia and around 15 percent developed Alzheimer’s disease specifically.
In response to these findings, the researchers concluded that stress plays a huge role in changing the brain’s cognitive function, causing changes that last many years after the initial event that caused the stress in the first place.
We are living in a very difficult time right now and taking time each day to take care of your mental health is important for both short-term and long-term health. Here are a few tips for reducing stress:
Meditation: Even just several moments of being present and mindful can have benefits that last all day long. Start your morning with a meditation session to set the tone for the day.
Minimizing social media: If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by news headlines, take a short break. Temporarily delete any apps that might be upsetting you so you aren’t tempted to open them.
Regular exercise: Get your heart pumping for at least 30 minutes per day of cardio. If you are unable to participate in intense exercises, even a short walk has many physical and emotional benefits.
Deep breathing: Never underestimate the power of a few deep breaths. The next time you notice yourself feeling tense, relax your body, close your eyes and take three deep breaths.
Write it down: It’s important to process the things you’re feeling right now in a healthy way. If you don’t have a friend or family member you can talk to, write down your thoughts in a journal.
Healthy eating: What you’re putting in your body has a big impact on the way you handle stressors in your life. If you’re feeling healthy and rested, you will be better equipped to tackle stressful events.
Taking care of yourself first is so important to those in your care. Please join our Facebook community to share stories, support and tips with fellow caregivers.