The fast-paced structure of modern society leaves many people feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and eager for things to just slow down. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this fast-paced lifestyle to a screeching halt, it hasn’t necessarily lessened stress levels.
If you’re feeling more stressed than ever before, know that you’re not alone. In order to cope with seasons of increased stress, it’s helpful to understand what it is, what causes it, and how to cope with it.
What Is Stress?
On a basic level, stress is defined as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Everyone experiences stress to some degree because it is a natural reaction to changes in your body, environment, and mental state.
Though it may seem contradictory, stress plays an important role in our lives because it provides us with information. For example, if you overeat you will experience stress that shows up as bodily tension. Your body is telling you that it is time to stop eating in the form of gastrointestinal discomfort. In this example, stress can be helpful. Unfortunately, stress does not always play a helpful role in our lives.
Many people experience high stress levels on a regular basis. The American Psychological Association surveyed 3,617 adults in the US about stress for its Stress in America 2019 report — the results of the survey reveal that many people experience stress on a daily basis about issues over which they have no direct control such as mass shootings, healthcare costs, and the political climate in the US.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is another large-scale issue that has the potential to cause serious stress. All of these issues are concerning and worth our attention, but the stress that they create has the potential to interfere with our mental and physical health.
Ways Current Events Are Affecting Stress Levels
COVID-19 has had a global impact — lives have been completely upended, and even worse, lost. Social distancing mandates and stay-at-home orders have made it impossible to employ typical coping strategies like going to the gym, meeting up with friends, or simply visiting your favorite local coffee shop.
In the face of this (temporary) new normal, it’s vital to be creative with the ways you cope with stress. Effective coping mechanisms for dealing with stress are the same during a pandemic or “normal” life, but you’ll have to be creative with how you apply them while in quarantine.
- Get moving. The positive impact that physical activity has on mental health and stress reduction is well-researched. The American Psychological Association outlines the various ways that exercise mitigates the negative effects of chronic stress on the mind and body. You cannot go to the gym right now but there is no shortage of at-home workout options available online.
- Connect with others. Research shows that both receiving and giving support can be a buffer for stress. Connecting with others in person is not an option with the current quarantine but there are other ways. Being intentional about connecting with others using the options available – video calls, phone calls, emails, snail mail – is an important part of managing stress.
- Limit your news consumption. It’s important to stay informed, but you should set boundaries for how much news you’re consuming and how often you’re consuming it. Carve out some time during your day to catch up with the goings-on of the world and try to limit yourself to checking in just during those time frames.
- Stay in touch with your therapist. Many people find that regular therapy sessions help with stress management. You cannot sit in the same room with your therapist right now, but with SonderMind Video Telehealth, you can stay connected with your therapist through convenient and secure video sessions.
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 will have a long-lasting impact on mental and physical health. All of the coping mechanisms outlined above can — and should — be adapted to fit your lifestyle once the stay-at-home orders are lifted in your area.