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Coping with Stress and Anxiety during Covid-19 Times!

Posted by Dr. Dhaarna Bhardwaj
Published on : 2020-01-01

With the rise in the Covid 19 cases during these months, working from home has become a new normal.

Sujata, an IT expert, working in a reputed company of Pune, is sitting in her home, after finishing her morning household responsibilities, as she sips coffee and peeps out of the window, she can see that the otherwise busy roads and streets remain deserted in the rush hours. She struggles to put a calm face forward in midst of this pandemic where her two young children and elderly in-laws who depend on her are visibly stressed and anxious. She is trying hard to balance her work and family responsibilities as much as possible.

She herself gets scared while trying to convince kids and in-laws that this would be over soon. Her husband though comforts her but he himself is sailing in the same boat.

Things are not same for all, Monisha on other hand can’t wait to return to the office. For her, it is extremely annoying to work from home, where she has to juggle with the household work all alone. Managing Zoom office meetings, cranky outburst of her children and demands of husband are driving her crazy and she wants it to end soon.

It is no surprise that we all are grappled with the fear of unknown in these uncertain times. Being confined at home has also lead to increased anxiety and stress and feeling isolated. Let us understand the difference between anxiety and stress and how to cope with stress and anxiety during the lockdown.

The difference between Stress and Anxiety-

Stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Though little bit of stress which is positive also called Eustress, helps the individual to perform better, however, if stress continues for a longer period of time it is converted to distress which has a harmful effect on body. Body responds to the stress either physically, emotionally or psychologically. One may feel dizzy, have aches and pains, headaches, feel tired or have changes in diet or sleeping patterns.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a response to this stress. Anxiety is a fear of what might happen in the future. This fear may be rational or irrational. Psychological, biological social and occupational functioning of the individual can be impaired if stress is for prolonged period of time, according to a study in Behavioural Neurosciences in 2006. Those with anxiety feel excessive worry, fear or nervousness. Common symptoms can be feeling irritated, restless, restlessness, disturbance in sleep and diet.

Around 284 million people have an anxiety disorder according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in 2017, which makes anxiety the most common mental health disorder. Anxiety affects one in every four Indian which roughly means 25% of the population.

Nearly 37% of workplace respondents reported symptoms of anxiety in the past year according to a recent survey from Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics. It is of no surprise that there will be an increase in workplace stress in the wake of the pandemic.

During the lockdown according to the google research most searched words on google are stress, depression and therapy in India. Recent research by Indian Psychiatric Society states that there is a 20% rise in cases related to mental illnesses. Covid-19 Pandemic has affected the entire society and the economic shutdown is most likely going to spurt anxiety disorders globally. Anxiety is the first step towards depression disorder according to NIMHANS researches. The key is to stop the anxiety developing into full blown depression.

We often have to deal with day to day anxieties like dealing with a irritable boss, complaining wife, traffic conditions, parenting, finances (EMIs), relationship trouble, cleanliness freak mother in law and we often try to find quick fix solutions or solace in bars, gym, fortune tellers, spiritual gurus and not so often the ‘shrink’.

The good news- Reducing the anxiety level to zero is neither possible nor useful. Anxiety can actually be helpful! Anxiety when channelized positively can lead to creativity and increased productivity.

The good news- Reducing the anxiety level to zero is neither possible nor useful. Anxiety can actually be helpful! Anxiety when channelized positively can lead to creativity and increased productivity.

During Covid-19, Anxiety is on rise due to-

  • Negative thoughts
  • Work-life imbalance
  • Uncertainty over future
  • Relationship Troubles
  • Financial worry
  • Abusive marriages
  • Affairs
  • Disturbance in sleep
  • Excessive Information on Pandemic

How to deal with stress & anxiety-

Write down thoughts in Journal: Journaling reduces stress by helping one get rid of negative thoughts. A study published in a 2011 Psychological Science journal stated that writing down your thoughts can be an effective way of reducing stress and anxiety. You can also include three things you are grateful for in your Journal.

Schedule your day: One of the best ways to deal with anxiety is planning your day and having a daily routine. Sticking to some routine even during lockdown will help you feel productive and you can use this opportunity to do things which were there in your bucket list for a long time. You can even grow your work/business online during the lockdown period or you can best utilize this time by enrolling yourself in some good courses or be involved in hobbies that make you feel happy.

Express your Emotions: If we understand why we feel the way we do, we can better express and manage emotions in our day to day life. The first step is label your emotions. Tell yourself ‘I am anxious’. Accept your emotions and increase your awareness about the emotions. It is okay and normal to experience both positive and negative emotions. Emotional Intelligence researches over the decade show that people who understand their own feelings have higher job satisfactionstronger job performance, and better relationships; are more innovative.

Stay Connected: Have physical distancing and not emotional distancing. Stay connected with your family and friends. Utilize this lockdown time as an opportunity to interact with friends and spending quality time with your family.

Practice mindfulness, Yoga or exercise: Practice focusing on what is happening right here and now. Learning to be mindful helps us to stay in present and be able to manage the daily life stressors.

You can also meditate, do yoga or exercise. Have you heard of “runner’s high”? Yes, it is real and caused when the body releases endorphins during physical activity like exercise. Endorphins promote sense of wellness.

Deep Breathing helps you to alter your blood oxygen levels and pH which in turn calms your adrenal gland and nervous system. You can also try out the guided meditation apps like Headspace if you are new to meditation.

Eat healthy, stay hydrated and sleep well: It is important to eat a balanced diet consisting of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to give your body the fuel it needs. When you eat unhealthy food, the body raises the stress hormone cortisol to be used as energy in order to compensate for the fuel.

Studies have shown that dehydration leads to higher cortisol levels—the stress hormone—making it difficult to deal with everyday problems. By staying hydrated you maintain better physical, emotional and mental health.

Adequate Sleep is a sure-fire way to minimize anxiety. When we wake up in a poor mood we do not have much motivation to accomplish the day to day activities. You should aim for at least seven to eight hours of rest every night.

Be Optimistic & Hopeful: Rather than dwelling on negative emotions try to replace them with more positive alternatives. Learn to find humour in situations and do small meaningful activities which makes you feel better and shift your emotions to more positive ones. Simple activities like cooking, reading, gardening, listening to music, podcast, watching movie, or comedy act can be a great way to distract and calm the mind.

Seeking help: Dealing with anxiety and stress can be challenging. If you feel that you have been feeling anxious for a prolonged period of time and it has impacted your day to day functioning, it is important to seek the help of a counsellor. Sessions with the counsellor would help you develop effective coping strategies to deal with anxiety and stress.

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