Adapting to This New Normal: Coping with Stress while Quarantined
Stress is, unfortunately, a prominent part in all of our lives right now. The sudden and abrupt change in our lifestyles has been hard for many reasons.
For me, I am one of the many parents juggling mom-life, work-life, and now home-school life. Between insurance calls for the group diabetes classes, I have found myself relearning first grade math, getting my kids up to speed with Zoom meetings with their classmates, and trying to keep my pre-schooler busy and out of trouble (imagine a sweet little girl with pigtails that, at times, seem to morph into devil horns). My husband is considered an “essential” worker so he is out of the house between 8-12 hours a day which leaves a lot of the day to day on me. That is not unusual for our family, but the kids being home 24/7 certainly is.
You may be wondering, what is happening in our body during stress?
If you are a lover of sports, like I am, imagine a stadium mixed with rivaling teams– in my case- our Philadelphia Eagles versus the (boooo!) Dallas Cowboys. When you put all those rowdy fans of opposing teams in the same place, you’re in for a wild experience. Envision lots of yelling, screaming, cursing, and wild behavior. Roll that into a ball and that is stress bouncing around in our body, ping ponging around and causing havoc. Increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, sweating, weight changes, and mindless eating are some of the most common consequences of our body experiencing stress.
Stress does a number to our physical and mental health.
You’re likely familiar with the fight or flight mechanism that gets catapulted into action when we are faced head on with a stressor. During times of stress, the cells of our body need energy to fight the stressor or run away from it. Therefore, our main source of energy, sugar, is released in greater quantities. All that sugar needs to get in and feed the cells. If only it was that easy. Instead of sugar simply entering the cells, a key in the form of Insulin is required to unlock the doors of the cell walls to allow the sugar to enter. We need this to happen instead of it stockpiling up and hanging out in our blood stream in mass quantities. In diabetes, there is either not enough insulin or the insulin that is present may not be working properly. In either situation, our blood sugar number will likely be elevated.
Stressors come in all different shapes and sizes— stress can come from good things like promotions, weddings, and babies. But, it comes from plenty of bad things like a loss of a job, the passing of a family member or friend, or an argument. Oops, how could I forget, let’s go ahead and add a pandemic to that list.
Since we have all been knocked out of our routine and stress is, perhaps, at the forefront- what have you been doing to decrease stress?
Are you making time for YOU?
I am a morning person, always have been. So I would much rather wake up early and on a normal day go to the gym. Since being in quarantine, my stress relief has come in the form of morning runs, an afternoon walk with my kids and dog, and/or some kind of a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) home workout (there are tons of free options online and check out Kathryn’s column on “Ways to Stay Active at Home”). The funny thing is I have come to find out that my kids think it’s a fun game to join me in the HIIT workout and it is a huge win for me because they are hitting the pillow at night and fading to sleep with so much more ease because they are beat. Well, guess what kiddos? I am right there with you. We are all beat. We are beat from all these new demands and navigating this new way of life.
This “new (temporary) normal” hasn’t been easy for any of us. But the best thing we can do is be positive and count our blessings during this crazy time.
I feel grateful for all this bonus time with my kids, that my husband and I both still have our jobs, and that we are healthy and well. There are so many people that are not as fortunate. Take time for yourself, whatever that means to you. Have you tried: meditation, a good book, a walk outside, a conversation with a friend, a deep breathing exercise, or a good punch into a pillow? Take time to do whatever it is you need to do to find peace during this uncertain time. Remember, stress is not defined by what is happening to us in the present, but more so how we react to it.
Kristen Garron RD, LDN, CDE
Director of Group Education. Kristen joined IDS in 2018 after working for seven years as a clinical dietitian in a community hospital and eight years as lead instructor for a diabetes self-management education company. With a knack for making complex issues seem simple and relating to people with a strong sense of empathy, group diabetes education has become her specialty and her passion. “I think it’s important to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” says Kristen. “Everyone at IDS is that way – with patients and with each other. It’s tough enough living with diabetes; the least we can do is make those around us feel like family.” A graduate of LaSalle University (go Explorers!), Kristen majored in Nutrition while earning All- Conference honors in division-1 lacrosse. In keeping with IDS tradition, she remains very active with distance-running and weight-lifting. Kristen lives in West Chester, PA with her husband Tim, daughters Grace & Sadie, and dog Kirby. She enjoys traveling (visited 30 of 50 states and more than a dozen foreign countries so far), scrapbooking, and being outside with the kids and Kirby.