If you were to write a list of possible causes of stress from recent events, I bet it’d be pretty long. From relationship breakdowns in lockdown to pandemic induced health anxiety, rising poverty and that’s not to mention a constantly changing political landscape worldwide. All of these events bring about uncertainty, fear and overall, increase our stress levels (with 84.9% of adults reporting feeling stressed or anxious as a result of the pandemic).
Even a ‘good’ dose of stress that football fans feel whilst watching their team play, may now be challenging as there isn’t the same community chat amongst fans following a match as people leave the stadium.
Even the quick chat with colleagues at the water fountain has diminished. Instead, we are at home watching TV, scrolling through the news and experiencing a build-up of adrenaline without the same release after consuming any stress inducing event, leaving us with rocketing stress levels as cortisol is preparing our mind and body for an attacking tiger, albeit a metaphorical one.
So even so-called positive news like the promise of a vaccine, may have boosted one’s mood temporarily and has then left people with a ‘come down’ with the continued uncertainty about what, when and how.
We all, however, have differing responses when we experience an event with different responses to triggers.
More optimistically we can train and design our minds and bodies to best cope with our response to stress, which is essentially our body’s reaction to pressures from a situation or life event and it’s so important we do this with stress related issues contributing to 70% of visits to the GP.
How to manage stress and anxiety in uncertain times
With the build-up of ‘cortisol,’ our stress hormones, being our fight or flight response, a good way to counteract this is with exercise and deep breathing which releases endorphins, our happy hormones. Anything from a brisk walk around the block, better still is the fact your outdoors which can give some perspective, to a virtual yoga or dance class, just moving more can really help and give you a better chance at eating and sleeping well which are also important factors in building our resilience to daily life stressors.
It’s easy for people to say “just relax” more too but I find by goal-setting and breaking every task I need to do into bite size chunks and planning it out, helps reduce my feelings of overwhelm as well as including time to ‘wind down’ within that plan too.
Another way to manage stress is by expressing yourself through creativity and sharing your worries, fears and self-doubts, whether it be with a health professional or a loved one, once we share our woes it can feel like a huge burden has lifted.
I know as someone with anxiety and chronic fatigue that whilst I can’t ‘rid’ my life of stress, and sometimes it can be a good thing when it comes to performance adrenaline, but how I manage my stress level is paramount to my overall mental and physical wellbeing. I have even changed my language around ‘battling’ mental health problems and stress to ‘adapting’ and ‘managing’ my disabilities and stress inducing events. So rather than ‘overcome’ stress how are you going to set yourself up to feel strong in mind and body so you can cope with stress?