Dealing with stress

As the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching implications continue to unfold globally and in our community, it's normal for people to experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions including:

  • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
  • Anxiety, worry, or fear
  • Racing thoughts
  • Sadness, tearfulness, loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
  • Physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, stomach upset, fatigue, or other uncomfortable sensations
  • Frustration, irritability, or anger
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Feeling helpless
  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
  • Feeling disconnected from others
  • Apprehension about going to public spaces
  • Trouble relaxing

These experiences are all understandable in the face of this significant challenge.  People are naturally concerned for their own and their loved ones’ health and safety.

Looking after our wellbeing in times like this can help to reduce stress, and is crucial in enabling us to still take calm and effective action in the midst of this global crisis.

The HSE have produced a talking toolkit on preventing work related stress.

Strategies to cope with stress, anxiety or distress

When many things feel uncertain or out of our control, one of the most effective ways we can manage stress and anxiety is to focus on the actions that are in our control.  Here are some ways you can take intentional steps to look after your physical and emotional wellbeing during this challenging time:

Acknowledge your feelings

Whatever you are feeling right now, know that it’s okay to feel that way.  Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling. This could be through journaling, talking with others, or channeling your emotions into something creative (e.g., drawing, painting, poetry, music).

Maintain your day-to-day activities and a routine as much as possible.

Having a healthy routine can have a positive impact on your thoughts and feelings.  It's natural for our minds to think of all the usual activities we may not be able to do at the moment. Make a conscious shift to focus on the activities that we are still able to do, or those that we may have more opportunity to do if we're at home more often.   Go back to basics: eating healthy meals, physical exercise (e.g., walking, stretching, running, cycling), getting enough sleep and doing things you enjoy.  Even if you're in self-isolation, or working from home, there are many ways to develop new routines and stay healthy.

Some ideas could be to:

Stay connected

Receiving support and care from others has a powerful effect on helping us cope with challenges.  Talking through our concerns, thoughts, and feelings with others can also help us find helpful ways of thinking about or dealing with a stressful situation.  Remember that social distancing does not need to mean social disconnection. There are many ways we can use technology to stay connected and both give and receive support (remotely).

You could:

  • Call, text, or video-chat with friends and family
  • Share quick and easy recipes
  • Start a virtual book or movie club
  • Schedule a workout together over video chat
  • Join an online group or peer forum.

Set limits around news and social media

It’s understandable to want to keep informed and prepared. At the same time, constantly reading, watching, or listening to upsetting media coverage can unnecessarily intensify worry and agitation. When you get the urge to check updates, see if you can pause, notice the urge, delay acting on the urge, and let it pass without judgement. Schedule a specific time to check in with the news instead. It's also okay to take breaks from conversations with others about COVID-19 and suggest talking about other topics.

And not to forget Health Assured who are an independent, external organisation who provide the Employee Counselling Service.

Health Assured have fully trained counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  If the service is accessed via the online link below, under the ‘contact us’ heading there is the option to use live chat where you can chat to the advisor without speaking in person.

This service is available to all employees, their spouses or partners and their dependents aged 16-24 if they are in full time education. You do not need to be at work to access this employee benefit.

You can access the service directly or by telephoning 0800 030 5182 or by downloading the app via Apple Store or Play Store for Android devices.   Once downloaded the username is argyll and the password is bute.