Looking after our selves at this time is really important. Stress has increased for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is a time where “normal” life has changed. The living landscape can be unfamiliar.
People are getting tired, the lock down has been going on for a long time, in particular for those who are having to stay home. The level of stress being experienced by people has increased in terms of trying to manage change and adapting to this experience. Stress is multilayered and experienced by people differently. In general, stress can present as a physical and or psychological reaction to a perceived or real activity, event, or challenging relationship.
Physical signs of stress:
- Tension in the jaw, grinding teeth
- Low energy
- Upset stomach
- Aches pains, tense muscles
- Reduced sex drive
- Nervousness, ringing in the ears, sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth
Emotional signs of stress:
- Easily agitated
- Difficulty relaxing
- Feeling bad about yourself
- Avoiding others
Cognitive (thinking) signs of stress:
- Difficulties focusing
- Racing thoughts- overwhelm
- Negative thoughts
- Change in appetite
- Increased drug and alcohol consumption
- Change in sleep patterns
Stress can have a negative impact on both your mind and body but during staying at home to reduce to the spread of COVID-19. Stress may be a different experience for you. There are several basic human needs which are being significantly challenged. People’s sense of safety and certainly has changed. People’s sense of connection with other people has also been compromised.
Also, for some their financial security has compromised and with no known end in sight, most people are feeling more stressed by the level of uncertainty. Our routines have been disrupted and we are isolated from people we care about.
Following a few simple strategies should help ease the journey through these challenging times and will help you feel more safe, secure, and more connected.
- Following routine, can help you feel more safe and able to achieve small goals. It brings a sense of familiarity and order to a disordered time.
- Set small goals, things you can easily get done which sustains your effectiveness and motivation.
- Limit time spent reading, hearing, or watching the news, as it may add to stress. Try to do positive things as much as possible. Stay informed but limit exposure. This applies to children and young people as well.
- Notice your thinking. It can be difficult to avoid negative thinking, especially if you are spending time with others who are negative, but negative thinking will not support you. This does not mean that you are pretending what is going on is not happening, just do not engage with the negative thoughts. When you spot one, focus on what you can do about the situation and what you have to be grateful for. Do something else to change your focus.
- Practise mindfulness and meditation, the calmer, more patient, more resourceful and less reactive you will be. Things around the house or garden, can be done mindfully which can offer an extra layer of support and peace to you while going about your day.
- Exercise too, add in a daily walk and or do a class online. Exercise reduces stress and evokes feel good hormones.
- Be gentle and kind to others. If you are finding some relationships a challenged, speak to the person share your frustreations using “I feel…. When…..”. Discuss how each of you can do to make things easier for them. It only needs to be something small like take turns with the cooking, doing the washing etc.
- Sharing space, in a respectful way. There may be more than one person that is working from home. If you need to share a workspace, agree on how to construct your times so this works for everyone. Perfection may not a possibility at this time but try to collaborate and compromise.
- Use this time to work on the relationship you have with yourself: more compassion and kindness. Start to treat yourself how you would like others to treat you.
- Being in lockdown does not mean you are locked out of the relationships that matter. Zoom/FaceTime. A phone call or text are great ways of staying in touch.