Stress Awareness Month: Managing stress during Coronavirus

Now more than ever, recognising and reducing stress is important as many people will be worried about Coronavirus. Not only the uncertainty of it all, but the knock on effects it’s having to people’s jobs, families and lifestyle.

As we juggle working from home, homeschooling children and speaking to family members we cannot physically see, stress levels are likely to increase.

April is recognised by Health Organisations across the UK as Stress Awareness Month. This annual campaign—which has been running for nearly 30 years—encourages people to educate themselves about the causes and potential health implications of excess stress, as well as how to implement proper coping mechanisms to reduce their stress levels.

Excess stress can be extremely damaging to both your physical and mental health. The NHS confirmed that frequently experiencing high levels of stress can increase your risk of suffering from a wide range of complications—including anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive problems and heart disease.

It’s surprising, but excess stress is more common than you might think. A recent study from the Mental Health Foundation revealed that over 70% of people had felt so stressed at some point in the past year that they were unable to cope.

Don’t let excess stress wreak havoc on your well-being. During this pandemic, it’s important to take time to look after yourself and those around you. Try to utilise the following guidance to help keep your stress levels under control:

  • Know the signs—While experiencing occasional stress is normal, consistently high stress levels can quickly become evident through additional physical and mental health symptoms. Although everyone experiences stress differently, here are some common signs to keep in mind:
    • Difficulty focusing or relaxing
    • Frequent mood swings and irritability
    • Changes in your appetite and sleep routine
    • Increased body aches and muscle tension
  • Identify the causes—Before you can reduce your stress levels, it’s important to identify the underlying cause(s). Top sources of stress include increased pressure at work, family or friendship difficulties (e.g. caring for someone, divorce or bereavement), financial struggles and ongoing health problems. Obviously right now the causes will most likely be related to Coronavirus itself, or the knock on effects from it.
  • Practice mindfulness—According to the Mental Health Foundation, mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that emphasises paying closer attention to your thoughts and feelings in a way that increases your ability to manage difficult situations and make healthy choices. Further, research provides that mindfulness can be effective in reducing stress levels. Consider practising mindfulness meditation on a regular basis or signing up for a local mindfulness course.

If you have been experiencing excess stress for a prolonged period of time and feel as though your stress is debilitating to your daily routine, be sure to contact your GP for additional support. For further NHS guidance on controlling your stress levels, click here.

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