This is a stressful time. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of all New Zealanders. We know many people are still feeling anxious, stressed, worried and scared as we navigate the road ahead.
“We’ve had to change the way we do things. COVID-19 has challenged our sense of how the world works, how our careers go, how our relationships go,” says . It’s been a full-on impact on the three areas that keep us well: feeling good, functioning well, feeling connected to others.”
Lisa Ducat, workplace wellbeing specialist at Mental Health Foundation
Some anxiety is normal but too much anxiety can create and spread panic. With uncertain threats like this one, our anxious minds can overestimate the danger posed to us, and underestimate our ability to cope.
Key points about stress
- When you are stressed, your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense and you start to sweat. Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical changes settle down.
- If you're constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms, which can affect your body, mood and behaviour. You may also not think clearly.
- Signs of too much stress can include headaches, stomach aches, poor sleep, being tired and irritable, or using stimulants such as coffee or sugar to keep you going.
- Health conditions that can develop as a result of too much stress include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression.
- Because stress is a part of life, learning how to manage it is key to maintaining good physical and mental health.
Tips to spot your stress
Learn the signs of stress. Think about when you notice stress in yourself — what are your personal warning signs? It may include:
- changes to sleeping patterns
- hard to make decisions
- feeling impatient or grumpy
- losing confidence
- losing interest in loved ones or in your work, favourite pastimes, or in people you care about
- indigestion or stomach pain.
What helps ease your stress?
It helps to learn how to recognise stress and find ways to cope with it before your body's stress response fully kicks in. If you’re not sure where to start, try these suggestions:
- Include things you find relaxing in your everyday life, such as listening to music, mindfulness meditation, connecting with friends and regular exercise.
- Learn useful anti-stress life skills such as effective problem solving, healthy communication and healthy thinking.
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance, take frequent breaks and find other ways to manage stress at work.
- Take care of yourself by being physically active every day, eating a healthy diet, having good sleep habits
- Make time to do fun things and spend time with the people who are important to you.
- Give yourself permission to not be at your best.
- Be kind to yourself, as well as to others.
- Look after your physical health, get sleep, and eat well. Your mind can’t work well if the engine runs on empty. Feel like you don’t have a spare minute for even a walk around the block? Try a walking meeting.
- Take notice of small things each day that make you feel good. Try and make time to do more of these things.
What can I do if I’m feeling stressed?
- Talk with someone who will listen and provide good support and advice if you want it.
- Review all the sources of stress in your life – what can be reduced, stopped or changed to take some pressure off?
- Learn about time management and setting priorities – you can only do so much each day.
- Plan breaks in your day – change your habits to make this part of your routine.
- Problem-solve and make action plans to help break things down into doable steps.
- Look at your lifestyle and make sure you are eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep and exercise.
- Connect with what is really important in your life to give you perspective about the things that don't matter as much.
Who can I talk to if I'm feeling stressed?
If you are finding it difficult to manage your stress, tell your doctor or find a counsellor or therapist to talk to.
Also check out Just A Thought - online courses and tools to help people with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression cope