Managing Stress during the Pandemic

17 August, 2020
Now more than ever, we all need our own little safe havens where we can take a moment to reflect on our mental health. Learning to manage everyday stresses can help us to cope with the ocean of uncertainties, fears, and changes that all of us have been facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts have warned that lockdown stress may well be here to stay. Yes, it seems that managing stress during the pandemic is a problem we’ll all be facing on a daily basis from now on, and one that we’ll have to learn to deal with if we want to be able to cope with the difficult months ahead. Developing effective coping strategies means that we’ll always have a lifeline to help us navigate the ever-changing, and often confusing, “new normal”.

It’s been three months since Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director General of the WHO) warned that we’d soon have to prepare for a new type of epidemic, as stated in an article published in the journal Psychiatric Times. He was, of course, referring to mental health disorders, particularly anxiety and depression.

The rise in mental health problems as a result of the pandemic is an extremely serious issue, and one which can’t be ignored. While some people already have the tools and resources to allow them to deal with the lockdown fairly easily, others are simply unable to cope, receiving every new piece of information and each step in the lockdown-easing process with overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

As well as the background and personal situation of each individual, we also have to consider just how much fear, uncertainty, and anguish the pandemic has generated among large swathes of the population.

Right now, we still don’t know the full extent of the impact this situation will have on our mental health in the long run. As such, it’s important for each of us to pay more attention to our mental health. We also need to learn how to manage what is, for many, the first step on the road toward more serious mental health issues: stress.

A man with is head in his hands.

The keys to managing stress during the pandemic

If you were to analyze the various different mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, you’d find that they all have one contributing factor in common: stress. This psychophysiological reaction is often triggered by situations that are beyond our control, things that overwhelm us and put us on edge.

The real problem comes when this state becomes chronic, when weeks and months pass during which stress has completely taken over our minds and bodies, and we start to succumb to anxiety.

Become the CEO of your own brain

When we become stressed, our brains start to go into overdrive. However, far from being positive, the thoughts it generates can often be harmful to our mental health.

Our minds start to overflow with fears, dark, depressing images, and questions such as “What will happen if…?”, “What if I get infected?”, and “What if the situation gets worse?” While these thoughts aren’t entirely unjustified, worrying about them will only serve to boost your stress levels.

To stop this spiral, you must become the CEO of your own mind. You have to regain control, monitoring your thoughts carefully. If a thought starts to make you feel anxious, you have to let it go. The key is to focus on the present, stay busy, and find solutions to the problems you’re facing here and now.

A window into the mind.

Design your own self-care plan

Having a set routine and a plan of what you’re going to do each day can help calm a troubled mind. It also means that you can avoid those moments of silence and emptiness, in which the mind tends to wander into an endless cycle of worry and stress. The best thing to do is create a daily schedule which includes a self-care plan. Some examples of this include:

  • Time for sports and exercise.
  • A few hours where you can do creative tasks which can help to channel feelings of stress.
  • Moments of social and emotional connection with the people you love.
  • Time for reflection, where you can get back in touch with your emotions and take stock of how you’re feeling so that you can work out what you need.

Building mental walls to safeguard your mental health

If you want to manage stress during the pandemic, you need to know how to filter or block out certain negative external factors. Knowing how to regulate the information you’re exposed to, taking time to disconnect from the outside world, and limiting conversations with people who enjoy spreading conspiracy theories can go a long way to improving your mental health during lockdown.

Using kindness to reduce stress during the pandemic

This last strategy for managing stress during the pandemic might surprise you. Some experts suggest that, if you want to reduce stress, one of the best things you can do is show compassion, empathy, and kindness to others. All of these emotions allow us to forget about ourselves for a moment, and focus on other people instead. Helping others and taking steps to promote their well-being will give you a deep rush of satisfaction and a much-needed morale boost.

Caring for others is like some powerful stress-relieving drug, and comes with some incredible side effects. By connecting with people in a positive way, we feel a sudden wave of calm and a sense of real achievement. Helping others and finding a purpose in life has acquired a huge value during the ongoing pandemic.

In the current circumstances, it’s essential to find new ways to maintain and improve our physical and mental health. However, it’s also a time to think of others and work together to make it through these difficult times. If we can do that, we’ll all be able to make it through this in one piece.