Stress can affect us in several ways, both physically and emotionally and in varying intensities. During this time, many of us may find ourselves feeling worried, anxious, alone whilst staying at home which makes it an even more important time to look after our mental wellbeing. Remember it’s okay to have these feelings and make sure you get the support if you feel you need it.
Here are some things you can do now to help manage your mental wellbeing
- Talk to someone: Having someone to speak to, like a family member, friend or helpline can help alleviate stress levels. It can very hard to practice social distancing or self-isolation, particularly if you are alone so don’t be afraid to ring someone over the phone at times you feel you need company. Staying connected is really important during this time. If you’re struggling, please do not be afraid to ask someone for help.
- Limit the number of times you check the news: It’s easy to get into the habit of constant news checking for the latest update but if you are finding that it is making you more stressed, I suggest you watch the new once or twice a day to stay informed with the guidance provided by our Health and Government officials on coronavirus outbreak and only look at reputable sources on the outbreak to avoid any speculation or rumours.
- Take a moment to breathe: When emotions are high, taking a few deep breaths can help to reduce stress and anxiety. A long slow out breath activates our bodies rest and recharge system to help us feel calmer. There are a number of breathing techniques you can try such as box breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds and hold for second before repeating this breathing sequence.
- Do things you enjoy: Taking time each day to do things you enjoy such as dancing, reading, cooking – whatever it may be can help to shift your focus away from what is stressing you. Find something that you can enjoy, such as painting, journaling, completing a jigsaw.
- Get physically active – It’s important that we not only look after our mental health but our physical health too. Exercise has shown to release feel good endorphins and improve our mood. Try one of our free home workouts here.
The strategies listed above are effective at making short-term improvements to your stress levels. When it comes to a long-term approach to combating stress, building your resilience is key. The good news is resilience is a trait that can be learned.
HOW TO BUILD RESILIENCE TO STRESS
To help build resilience keep in mind the following 8Ps of Resilience:
- Permanence: no matter how difficult the current situation seems, it will pass eventually.
- Pervasiveness: don’t allow challenges in one area of your life to spill over and affect other areas.
- Personalisation: don’t let a difficult situation affect how you see yourself or your self-esteem.
- Passion: find passion and meaning in some aspect of your activities – whether at work or in other areas.
- Positive mindset: accurately appraise the positives and negatives of a situation and be ‘glass half full’. You may wish to keep a gratitude diary, and write about 3 small things each day that you are thankful for. This has shown to reduce stress levels and increase resilience. Research has shown that helping someone can elicit happiness so you can also try this as well.
- Prioritisation: choose to differentiate between the important and the urgent and prioritise effectively.
- Problem-solving: think outside the box and break down complex problems into smaller parts to solve them.
- Avoid Perfectionist thinking: accept that under stress ‘good enough’ is often okay.
Adapting your lifestyle to include the following changes will also help protect against physical and mental burnout.
Maintain a healthy life-work balance: when working from home it is even more important to maintain a routine which includes regular recharge breaks to maintain productivity. Try not to work in the bedroom to minimise the risk of disturbed sleep.
Get enough sleep: a short nap – no more than 20-30 minutes – in the afternoon is a great way to increase productivity.
Eat a balanced diet: a healthy diet without too much caffeine will balance sugar levels and decrease feelings of irritability and anxiety.
Look at the big picture: when we are under more pressure than usual it’s easy to allow small things to trigger stress. Try to keep things in perspective.
Build healthy relationships: invest in relationships and develop a good support network. Don’t be afraid to ask for help early.
Set goals: giving yourself short and medium-term goals will help you prioritise things as you work towards long-term aims.
Keep your mind active: take up a challenge or learn a new skill as research suggests new experiences have the effect of slowing down time.
Everyone needs to make time to slow down and put themselves first. So try and incorporate some of these tips into your lifestyle, and give yourself the best chance to regulate the effects of stress and maintain a healthy mind and body. If you feel the effects of stress have become persistent and are causing you to feel down or anxious much of the time, please get in touch with a support group like Mental Health UK or Mind UK.