This month is Stress Awareness Month and, frankly, the Stress Management Society couldn’t have picked a better month for it! The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak means that life is changing for all of us and this is manifesting in unprecedented levels of stress. No matter what your age or station in life, this will be affecting you. Whether you’re worried about job security or family finances; bored and frustrated with the limitations of lockdown or concerned about when you’ll next get to see your family, there will be worry and anxiety.
As part of Stress Awareness month, here’s our guide to simple things you can do to help you manage your stress levels during this time of uncertainty. Doing so will help you think clearly, and make sure you are able to look after yourself and those you care about.
Yes, it’s lockdown, yes there’s social distancing but we can still stay connected with friends and family. Many of us are discovering new ways of staying in touch. Be it school children or grandparents, be it for virtual pub quizzes or just having a few drinks with friends, the use of platforms such as Zoom has exploded.
Alternatively, now we have some time on our hands, why not go old school and pick up the phone?!
However you choose to do it, use this time to stay in touch with people. Maintain those relationships and maybe rekindle some old ones.
Talk about your worries
If you’re stressed or anxious about the current situation, it’s important to know that this is perfectly normal. If you can, see ‘Stay connected’ above: it’s OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too. If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, maybe try writing things down. Getting things down on paper really helps to rationalise things.
Structure your time
Many of us aren’t great with empty voids of time. We like to be busy and normal life gives us a structure that enables that. If you struggle with this, don’t let it feed your stress. Make the most of this time. What do you want to get done around the house? How can you maximize the most of your daily run, walk or ride? Who do you want to chat to? What do you fancy learning to cook? There’s a myriad of ways to fill this time and by keeping busy, you’ll keep your mind occupied and be far more likely to use your time positively and feel better about your day.
Eat and drink well
Your physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse. Snacking, drinking more than normal; these are easy habits to fall into. But, for good stress management, you’ll feel better physically and psychologically if you try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink enough water.
Exercise is probably number one for stress management. Make sure you get out for your daily walk, run or cycle. Make it interesting: try different routes, time yourself and aim to speed up over time, try a bit of a run during your walk.
That doesn’t have to be it for the day. Inside your house or in your garden, try other forms of exercise. Joe Wicks workouts for children are a great place to start even for adults. A great place to start to get your heart rate up. He’s also launched other free programmes for other age groups. If this isn’t your thing, find a stretching or strengthening routine on the internet. Or ideally both! If you’re not sure where to start, the NHS website has some great resources
Learning some relaxing, calming breathing techniques can really help deal with anxiety and stress. Read our blog on this subject for some simple breathing routines to help calm your mind and body.
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it is important to get enough. Ironically, in times of stress – just when we need a decent sleep – we tend to find our sleep patterns disturbed.
Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. Read our recent blog for more advice on getting your sleep pattern back on track.
These are simple things that we can do to help keep on top of stress. It’s important to say that if things are a bit more serious and you are really struggling, that help through your GP is still available if you need to talk to someone.
And remember, this is all temporary: as bizarre a concept as going to the pub or the cinema is, it will happen again!