There are many reasons you may be dealing with stress and anxiety right now – lockdown, home-schooling, working from home, lack of work, missing loved ones and just missing a sense of normality. Although the feeling is that life is on it’s way back to ‘normal’ at some point this year, it is important not to overlook feelings of stress and anxiety about how they may be affecting us mentally.
Pandemics are not an everyday occurrence so a spike in your stress levels is a totally normal response but this increase can hinder immunity and have a detrimental effect on your mental health. Taking action to reduce this stress may be helpful to your overall wellbeing. Here are some strategies:
1. Recognise your stress
Although this is a normal part of life sometimes stress can bring other symptoms that you don’t immediately recognize as being caused by stress. As well as the usual sadness, confusion and irritability there can also be symptoms like sleeping issues, tension (headaches), body pain (muscle spasms), reduced energy and increased tiredness. By recognizing that these are attributed to stress you can understand and manage your emotions better.
If you miss the signs of stress early on or think that you can manage them by brushing them under the rug then your stress can quickly become overwhelming and harder to manage.
2. Manage what you can; release what you cannot.
Once you acknowledge your stress, it can motivate you to manage what you can. Taking action to combat a part of the problem can help you to reduce your symptoms.
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the virus and what we know about it. An important difference between stress and anxiety is the false sense of control that may arise from over-worrying and over-compensating. As well as limiting your exposure to news sources and trying to focus on reliable accurate information try to also be mindful of misleading news out there that could take your focus away from what you can control.
3. Know your limits
Only you know what your threshold is, when you start to feel overwhelmed or over committed – take a step back and re-evaluate. Do you really need to take on that extra piece of work or another activity with your kids? Paying attention to the signs and symptoms you experience before you get to this point can really help you with managing your stress before it becomes unmanageable. When you have identified the external sources of stress these may be helpful areas to start building boundaries to protect your well-being. Another example is to limit your consumption of news. This may be by restricting the sources of news available to you or the time spent on it.
4. Practice self-care
Self-care is a term used a lot in the media, and especially recently. It means more than just treating yourself to some new clothes or taking some time to read a book. Self-care is the active process of acknowledging and tending to your needs, including practices that invest in your general wellness. For example eating nutritious foods, staying active, and getting adequate rest.
When you are experiencing stress and anxiety, self-care needs to include coping mechanisms, the methods that you use in an effort to moderate your stress. Paying attention to the symptoms that arise when you are stressed will help you know what are the right coping mechanisms for you. You can also try reflecting on your past. Think about another time that you were stressed, what helped to relax you at that time?
It may feel like you are restricted and unable to do things that have helped you in the past. If you previously attended a yoga class then try an online class instead. If meeting up with friends lifted your mood and you are unable to meet up within social distancing rules then try Zoom meetups instead.
Here are some more examples:
- Play with a pet
- Read a book
- Watch your favourite movie
- Take an online class
- Host a virtual gathering
This information is educational in nature and is in no way a substitute for professional therapy. Be mindful that stress may also exacerbate underlying mental health conditions. If you notice that your signs are difficult to manage, please consider seeking professional help.