Managing Stress and Mental Health Issues in the Age of Covid-19
As we are moving into lockdown number 2, you may wonder if we need Stress Awareness Week at all as we all know we are feeling the effects of the pandemic on top of our usual life stresses.
In June, Nuffield Health reported that around 80% of British people working from home earlier this year, now feel lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health, while 25% said they were finding it difficult to cope with the emotional challenges of isolation. Guardian
The Office of National Statistics last week published a study which showed that 39% of people who are married or in a civil partnership now report high levels of anxiety, compared with 19% pre-pandemic. This increase is probably due to extra caring responsibilities for family, working from home and financial worries. Not to mention the wider world-wide issues.
Social and healthcare workers are more anxious, and many are experiencing panic attacks.
Covid-19 patients who have been in hospital or experiencing the physical effects of “long covid” are also vulnerable to more mental health issues.
Professor Cathy Creswell (Oxford University) studied 10,000 UK families. This showed primary school children were much more troubled by lockdown compared with secondary school pupils whose parents reported a decrease in these problems. I wonder what the pupils themselves would say?
Remember, according to Mind the Mental Health charity:
- There’s no ‘normal’ response to changes in restrictions and lockdown. Your feelings may be affected by lots of things that are out of your control.
- Your feelings might change. You might feel one way one day, and another way the next. Or your feelings might change throughout the day. It might not feel logical.
Enough of all of that! We can get through this.
You want to know:
What can you do to help you feel less stressed.
What causes us to feel stressed?
- External situations or events that put pressure on us – when we have lots to do and think about, or don’t have much control over what happens.
- Our reaction to being placed under pressure (internal) – the feelings we get when we become overwhelmed.
Whatever makes you feel stressed, it’s likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:
- managing any external pressures that are within our control – stop putting things off as action can make you feel better. So, swallowing the frog or cleaning out your cutlery drawer can make you feel better.
- developing your emotional resilience and how you react, so you’re better at coping with tough situations when they do happen and don’t feel quite so overwhelmed
- Accept the things you can’t change. It’s not easy but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can’t do anything about will help you focus your time and energy more productively.
In addition, you can do the following
Developing a mindfulness practice can be such a practical help with all of this. You don’t need to be zen. You can start with a Breathing Space (download my free 3 minute one here). This can help reset you and allow you to take a step back. You can get off the hamster wheel for a few moments and that can make all the difference. We can do nearly anything mindfully from eating chocolate to going to the toilet! We can never have a blank mind as all minds are designed to be active. The practice is bringing the awareness back from where it has wandered off to.
- Make some lifestyle changes – start small and work on one thing at a time
- look after your physical health – exercise and eating better helps us feel better mentally
- give yourself a break – take some time every day to just be and remember times are not normal and you are allowed the occasional treat or slip!
- build your support network – it is even more important that you keep in touch with people by phone or online. Keep talking, it really does help!