Dealing with stress
Dealing with stress
Wednesday, 24 June 2020
Covid-19 has turned people’s plans for 2020 upside down, and so far this year doesn’t look much better.
Young people, in particular, have been heavily impacted. Missed opportunities due to social restrictions, job insecurity and uncertainty about the future have led to challenging situations.
Stress is one of those words we use so often it has almost lost its meaning. To gain a better understanding of how to deal with stress during a pandemic, this article covers:
- What is stress?
- When is stress good and when is it bad?
- What causes stress?
- Tips for dealing with stress.
What is stress?
Stress is a signal that our body or mind gives us to let us know that something is not great and needs to be looked at.
For pre-historic or early humans, stress appeared in response to a serious danger or a threat, like meeting a tiger while hunting for food. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol gave us the boost we needed to deal with the predator: either ‘fight or flight’.
Our bodies still respond to a threat in the same way today, even though the tiger has been replaced by a maths exam or a row with our boyfriend/girlfriend. Stress can cause a physical reaction: our body gets tense and our heart rate speeds up.
When is stress good and when is it bad?
When young people come to Jigsaw with feelings of stress, we assure them that it’s not possible to completely rid your life of it. But, it is possible to better manage, and reduce your stress levels.
Stress is your body trying to tell you something so learning to listen to it is a good start:
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In fact a little bit of stress can be helpful. The caveman can run away from the tiger, and you get the energy boost to tackle two hours of trigonometry questions.
But too much stress can also cause us to freeze; the caveman pretends to be dead when he meets that tiger because he can’t out-run it. For you, there’s a big exam in a few days and all you can do is stare at the cover of your books. You’re frozen in indecision because you don’t know where to start, so to briefly get away from the stress you look at YouTube instead.
Stress rarely appears alone. You might also be feeling down, anxious, angry, irritable, overwhelmed or overloaded. Stress can interfere with our sleep and leave us lacking motivation and make it difficult to concentrate.
What causes stress
If we can’t identify what’s stressing us out, then we don’t feel able to change anything.
It’s rare we are stressed about just one thing. It’s usually a combination of things at the one time that are difficult to manage, such as:
- Exams or pressure from teachers or our parents/guardians
- Arguments at home or a chaotic house
- Worries or stress about friends or friendship groups.
Stress can build up and affect our body and mind. Your thoughts become ‘I can’t manage what is being asked of me’.
Discover what is really bothering you
Getting in tune with yourself is the first and essential step to dealing with stress.
Think of stress as an alert telling you that there are some parts of your life that might need changing. To defuse this alert, you’ll need to work out what’s triggering it. This sounds simple, but often we are unaware (or afraid to admit) how much a relationship, job, person, or lifestyle is stressing us.
If what’s bothering you is the change in lifestyle due to Covid restrictions, remind yourself that although it is tough, it will pass.
Be your own stress detective
You might notice you get stressed doing college work from home. Many of us are in situations where our families are spending large amounts of time working or studying at home. Even if we usually get on well, being forced to spend most of our time with our family can lead to increased strain.
If it’s a family member you are finding difficult, ask yourself why you are so affected by them. It’s important to set and keep boundaries for ourselves, as a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt by others.
If you are struggling to stay motivated during these most times, goal setting can be useful to give us a sense of direction.
When you feel overwhelmed
You may feel overwhelmed and are convinced that everything is stressing you out. If this sounds familiar, get yourself a special notebook and record everything you do throughout the day. Next to the action you took, write down how stressed you feel on a rating of one to 10.
Patterns will emerge after a few days. You might discover that deadlines or exams always set you off, or dealing with a certain person, or on weeks where you have no day off between work and study.
These are challenging times and none of us has experienced a situation like this before. If you’re feeling overwhelmed due to changes in circumstance, be kind to yourself. It’s OK to not be OK.
Tips for dealing with stress
Talk it out
Saying out loud how you’re feeling to someone else can make a huge difference. This could be with a friend, parent, counsellor or teacher. They don’t have to have all the answers (in fact, they probably won’t), but talking about what’s stressing you will help you find your own solutions.
You might also like to try Jigsaw Live Chat, to talk to the online team via webchat about what is going on for you and different ways to manage it.
Write it all down
This might seem daunting, but your problems will seem a lot less overwhelming when they’re all out on the page. You can keep a journal, or burn the pages afterwards if you really want to.
Break things down into manageable chunks
Maybe your room has been in a mess for months and it just seems too much to manage. If you get a to-do list and write ‘clean room’, it’ll be too daunting to even start. Instead, start with something manageable, like ‘do washing’, or ‘de-clutter desk’.
Achieving a simple task (and ticking it off the to-do list) gives us a little boost. This often reduces our stress and motivates us to tackle another manageable task. Before we know it, what once seemed like a task too big to start, is done.
Watch that inner voice
Notice how you talk to yourself. Make sure you’re not being overly critical, which will make you more stressed.
Find time – and ways – to relax
There are countless ways to unwind your body and mind; find out what works for you and schedule it into your week. It could be running, flicking through a magazine, deep breathing, or colouring books. No matter how busy we are, we all need downtime.