By Allie Cooper

COVID stress can boost Raynaud’s Studies show that Americans’ stress levels have risen as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. That’s no surprise to most, but it may be more problematic to those who suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, says the Raynaud’s Association, as COVID stress can boost Raynaud’s attacks.

According to a 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association, American respondents reported an average stress level of 5.6 out of 10. Though these seem like middling numbers, they’re higher than stress levels reported in all stress-related surveys conducted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 80% of respondents also cited the pandemic as a major source of stress, proving that these times have placed the nation in a state of collective trauma.

For individuals afflicted with Raynaud’s—a disorder associated with both cold temperatures and stress—these heightened societal stressors can lead to an increased risk and frequency of attacks. Fortunately, even as the added risk of contracting the virus can limit our choice of stress relief strategies, there are ways to take care of our mental well-being during times of crisis. Many of these strategies are available to you right at home. Below are a few tips for managing stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Try Self Massage

Our previous article on Science Backed Ways to Relieve Stress named massage therapy as an effective stress relief activity. On top of promoting mind and body relaxation, massage therapy can ease Raynaud’s symptoms by stimulating circulation in extremities and releasing tension around stiff muscles.

For maximized relaxation, find a space for the activity, like a quiet area in your house. You can also add slow music to set the mood or enhance the atmosphere with scented candles or aromatherapy. Then, using your hands, apply pressure on stiff muscles. You can also use tools like foam rollers, battery and electric massage equipment, or tennis balls, to increase pressure.

Get Creative

A recent study on Frontiers in Psychology found that creative outlets have been beneficial for people across the world trying to find effective ways to cope with the pandemic. Researchers described the positive feelings associated with creativity as “flourishing,” in which people feel engaged and that their life has meaning and purpose.

Try creative activities, such as drawing, painting, or singing, to let the visual side of your brain express what the verbal brain cannot state in words. American Nurse, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Nurses Association, covers the topic of using creative pursuits to improve well-being.

One of their articles suggests dancing, which can improve mental and emotional health on top of its obvious physical benefits. Research has proven that dance movements can regulate the body’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, both of which boost positive emotions. The movement may be especially beneficial for Raynaud’s sufferers because the movement promotes blood flow to the extremities. You can also practice dancing to improve your confidence. With the elevated mood that comes with the activity, this confidence might carry over to other areas of your life.

Manage Social Media Consumption

Using social media too much can have a negative impact on mental health. Technology site CNET called this the “loneliness paradox” in one of their features. The more time you spend connected on social media, the lonelier you might actually feel. It’s because we spend so much time online that we lose out on opportunities to make genuine connections with people outside our screens. Plus, the isolation social media causes is only worsened by continuous access to stress-inducing news. Thus, the greater risk of inducing a painful Raynaud’s episode!

Turn off your phone throughout the day to avoid feeling too overwhelmed. If this is not possible, turn off push notifications from social media platforms and news sites. For more structure, assign a specific schedule for phone usage, then limit your phone usage to that set period of time. Try to replace the time you would normally use on your phone with an actual conversation with people — you might be surprised how relaxing it can be.

It’s particularly important in these times when COVID stress can boost Raynaud’s woes and give us – and our fingers – the blues! For more on stress and Raynaud’s, give these articles a read:

8 Science-backed Ways to Relieve Stress

Simple Stress (and Raynaud’s) Relievers

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