Stress, COVID, and Why You Can’t Shed those Pounds (hint: it isn’t willpower!)

Anyone else wishing for a good, old-fashioned snow day? No videos to record, no Zoom calls, just some hot chocolate and a good book?

I am. Right now, I’m starting to feel like we need to re-visit maintaining the status quo. Let’s really take a look at the aftermath of some of it:

Earlier this summer, researchers coined the term COVID Stress Syndrome. In a study by Taylor and Colleagues (2020), time spent in isolation was positively correlated with increased stress symptoms and anxiety.

We have Zoom. We can carry on. Just move it all online.

Maybe not.

I’m sure you all have heard of Zoom Fatigue. That feeling you’re working twice as hard to communicate during video chats? It’s a thing. Some people suggest that we have to work harder to read emotions and body language, because we don’t have the whole person in front of us. I find it’s harder to communicate because there aren’t the subtle cues to determine when it’s your turn to talk and when another person has their turn. Do you butt in? Use the chat function? Or just shut up? Never can tell.

Does anyone else feel like their prescription changed dramatically during COVID? Apparently that is also real. We weren’t meant to stare at blue light screens all day long.

So, there are lots of ideas on how to make sure we are taking care of ourselves during this time of Zoomstice. However, not all of these ideas are practical.

Take a 5m break every 20m? That would be great, but our faculty meetings are 90 minutes long. Some meetings are longer than that. Just like you can’t get up and leave a meeting, you can’t get up and take a break from Zoom.

Then, there are the “after Zoom” activities, like follow up emails, tasks, etc… and all of a sudden it’s 3 hours later.

And now we are also available 24/7/365. We are no longer “off” or “on,” we just are.

The truth of it is that our bodies were not made to be on 24/7/365. We were made to fight the tiger, eat the tiger, then rest and rejoice. When the tiger is constantly chasing us, at some point, we burn out.

The physiological effects of a constantly revving engine are great. Our bodies are conserving fuel for the fight, flight, or freeze as well as delivering targeted nutrients to organs. More glucose is released into the bloodstream. Digestion and other less than important things are stopped. This puts us at a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, etc… And if you look at it, it’s no wonder a lot of us put on weight. It’s survival of the fattest!

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