April is Stress Awareness Month. For that reason, it seemed appropriate to share some tips and thoughts on how to manage stress during lockdown.
The Mental Health Foundation discovered that in 2019, 74% of adults felt so stressed that they were overwhelmed and unable to cope (and that was before the current challenges that we’re facing!)
April is always a busy month for me, helping individuals to manage stress through coaching as well as delivering stress awareness workshops, webinars and lunch and learn sessions to organisations who want to support their employees and give them coping strategies for the year ahead.
With this year looking so different, I’m now running all these online to companies who are still open or looking to support the wellbeing and mental health of furloughed employees.
It’s important, more than ever that we know how to manage stress during this strange lockdown period, how we can recognise stress, what we can do about it for the adjustment period too. There are podcast episodes HERE that are useful or read on for some insights.
Changing the Way We Think
Sometimes getting information and changing the way we think about things is a key part to coping with stressful situations.
My answer to the question everyone is asking — “When will this be over?” — apart from “who knows” is going to be the same answer I used to give adoptive parents when they were dealing with traumatised children.
It might be never completely be over.
Sorry to burst your bubble
To answer the other common question … “when can we get back to normal”. I usually respond with
What does normal usually look like?
What will normal look like in the future? We don’t know, but I’m sure it won’t be the same.
One things we can be sure about is that this Coronavirus crisis is going to bring about change. There’s going to be change in how we work – maybe more companies, having been forced to accept working from home, will see that it’s possible and people / staff / workforce DO still get stuff done, so they don’t need to worry about presenteeism.
There’s going to be a bigger need for looking after mental health.
There’s going to be changes in how we connect and keep in touch
There’s going to be changes in all sorts of things that we haven’t even thought of yet – NHS, health, shopping, schooling – surely?
We can’t possible go back to ‘how it was’ – people have died, people have lost jobs, companies have closed, some might never survive, companies and people have changed and adapted. This is how it is. We change and adapt, but rarely go back.
How Do We Cope?
Whilst we’re in this crisis situation, how do we cope? How do we get through when there is so much unknown, pressure and change?
It’s important that you recognise what’s going on with you so that you can manage your stress during lockdown.
Some people are outwardly active and like to keep busy when they’re stressed and anxious.
Others stop, freeze, struggle to do anything.
It’s all normal. However you manage stress, any response is fine – just know what yours is and don’t try to keep up with others who have a different response!
What do common stress responses look like?
When you’re able to recognise common physical and mental stress responses, you’re better able to manage stress during lockdown and beyond. Some commons stress responses are:
- A tight feeling in your chest
- Poor memory or struggling to remember everyday things
- Difficulty sleeping or waking up through the night or early mornings
- Aches and pains for seemingly no particular reason – tight shoulders, clenched jaw, stiff back
or perhaps you’re eating chocolate, crisps, carbs and rubbish .. oh and alcohol too!
The survival aspect creates the stress response, so our bodies release cortisol (the stress chemical) that makes us crave CRAP (Carbs, Refined food, Additives and Processed food).
The stress response is supposed to keep us going whilst we run from the tiger (so to speak) – the only thing is, in modern day, we’re sat at our desk, on our sofas, in our houses, so we don’t burn it off!!!
Instead, we need to find other ways to calm the internal system.
What Do We Need to Do To Manage Stress During Lockdown?
Whilst the responses to manage stress are totally normal, they can also very hard to live with.
To calm our internal system we need some deep breathing. This is the easiest and most effective way to begin to bring about calm. Deep belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which then automatically send signals to your brain that there’s a false alarm, that you can calm down.
I talk about all this in more detail on my Managing Stress trainings and webinars (contact me if you want to know more). Recently, I’ve also provide a guided relaxation because they’ve been so helpful for people in the recent weeks.
The stress is happening because of the build up of pressure / change / emotions. It’s really important to be able to own and admit the difficulties.
Remember it’s ok not to be ok.
Just as long as you don’t stay in that place for long.
Know that you are not failing. Let go of all of the ideas you have about what you should be doing right now. Instead, focus on your physical and psychological feelings and what you can do about them to manage stress levels down.
The Adjustment Period to Manage Stress
No-one really feels good during a stressful situation and that’s OK.
When you’ve calmed your internal system, with deep breathing, rest, or working off cortisol, the stress chemical, then you can look at what adjustments still need to be made to manage stress better. In time your brain can re-set – it will begin to look for opportunities / things to do / different ways to respond.
- Give yourself what you need. Is it time alone or with others?
- Find ways to stay connected.
- Pick up the phone – don’t just text or email or message
- Use video calling because eye contact is incredibly connecting, more than we realise.
- Allowing time for a good moan / offload / cry is helpful then it creates space to smile, laugh and do the the positive uplifting things.
- Switch off the ‘keep smiling’ and ‘power through’ stuff on social media of if it’s not helpful to you.
- Ignore the neighbour who has re-decorated his whole house already!! You’re not them.
Do what YOU need to do, WHEN you need to do it.
Your mental shift and adjustment will happen when it’s right for you – the more pressure you put on yourself, the more stressed you’ll make yourself and then you’ll need to go back to point 1
There WILL be a range of emotions that you go through.
But it’s OK to cry, get upset, be pissed off. Allow the emotions to be there, it’s part of the process – the adjustment, healing, acceptance.
We might be on week 4 of lockdown, but this is just the beginning.
As The Queen said, we’ll meet again. And we will.
Give it time.
We must give ourselves time to accept, react and adjust. Then we create a new normal, for a while and hopefully not too long!
This is available on the Lessons for Leaders podcast along with other helpful episodes about coping during the Coronavirus crisis.
Email me or book a call using this link if you want to talk about working with me on 1:1 basis or how I can help your workforce.
This article was previously published on LinkedIn