Written by Dr Kelly Young – Senior Psychologist

Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure. This year, more people are experiencing stress or anxiety for the first time.

Surveys have revealed that, in June 2020, one in five (19.2%) adults were likely to be experiencing depression in the UK. This has doubled since 2019. Of these, 84.9% reported that their mental wellbeing was most commonly affected by feeling stressed or anxious. (Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain. Office for National Statistics, June 2020)

So what is stress and how does it feel?

Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure. We feel stressed when we have too many demands, and have too few resources to cope. That pressure can include life events, illness (ourselves or a loved one), our living conditions, work, home and family, study, lack of some necessity. On top of all these potential life stressors, other factors include; neglecting ourselves by putting everything and everyone else first, doing too much, and setting ourselves impossible expectations and the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ rules we live our everyday life by.

So when we consider all these factors, is it any wonder that so many of us are feeling stressed right now?! 2020 has seen a global pandemic that has resulted in many changes and restrictions. I know so many people who are dealing with all these normal life events with the extra pressures that restrictions and national lockdowns bring.

You may own a business and are trying to keep it afloat. You may be juggling the demands and pressures of work, alongside getting used to doing this from home; you may have just left home to start university and find you are studying in isolation; you may be facing redundancy and a reduced income. A lot of us are juggling the desire to see our loved ones, with the need to keep them safe; all of this alongside feelings of isolation, loneliness and, in many cases, loss.

Whatever your situation is at the moment; your living arrangements, your working situation, supporting immediate and the wider family – this can be a lot to deal with right now.

So how can we tell that we / or others are stressed?

Psychological SignsEmotional SignsPhysical SignsBehavioural Signs
Depression & Anxiety, Insomnia, Worrying Lack of concentration, Negative thinkingTearful, Irritable, Angry, Lack of confidence, Lack of motivation, Mood swingsAches and pains, Constipation / diarrhoea, Weight loss or gain, Heart palpitations, Dizziness, Fatigue, NauseaIncreased alcohol use, social withdrawal, relationship problems, Aggressive outbursts

It’s important that we can recognise these symptoms and start to reduce some of the demands and increase our resources to help us cope with stressful events.

So what can we do to help?

  • First of all consider how to reduce demands on yourself, or things you can ask others to help with. Make a list of priorities and decide how you can limit your responsibilities and what doesn’t need your attention right now. Remind yourself that it is ok to say ‘no’
  • Make time for yourself each day. When we feel stressed we tend to focus on activities where we feel a sense of achievement. However it is important to spend time doing things that are relaxing, enjoyable and fun.
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings to get them out of your head.
  • Just take one step at a time – we can feel stressed when we try to plan too far ahead.
  • Learn some positive self-talk – encourage yourself, tell yourself: ‘I can do this, I’ve done it before, this will pass’ – find a positive coping statement that works for you, write it down and memorise it for when you need it.
  • Relaxation techniques – try different ones and find one that works for you or try Meditation / Mindfulness. There are many apps that can guide you through these techniques, i.e. Headspace, Calm.
  • It is important to stay connected with others – during lockdown it is difficult to visit our family and friends. but we can use video calling or simply pick up the phone to speak to family or friends.
  • Engage in physical exercise. If we can’t get to a gym or class, we can do something different like walking, cycling or exercising in and outdoors.
  • It is also important to eat a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and to drink water. When we are stressed we tend to crave high fat / carb foods and also drink more caffeine and alcohol. This only compounds the problem.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. These are extraordinary times and we are all doing our best in our current situation.

If doing it on your own is difficult and you would benefit from talking about the things that may be making you stressed, we have therapists at the Retreat who can help you to understand and manage symptoms of stress.