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.
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.
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.
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.