• Stress can have a negative impact on both mind and body – and at this time many of us have reasons to feel stressed

  • Therapist and coach Tricia Woolfrey shares 5 stress solutions to help you through lockdown

  • Our therapists and counsellors are available to see you online – find your therapist here 

Stress is a feeling which acts as a signal for attention – like a call for help when things become too much. It’s a reflection of your perceived ability to deal with the circumstances which are causing you stress. 

Why is covid stress worse than usual stress?

During lockdown the stress takes on a whole new level. Why Is this?

Basic human needs and stress

The biggest reason is that there are a number of basic human needs which are significantly challenged right now:

  • Safety
  • Security
  • Connection
  • Certainty

The media scaremonger what is already scary, our financial security has been significantly compromised and most people are feeling more stressed by the level of uncertainty: there is no known end in sight and no true understanding of what it will look like when it does end. On top of all of that, our routines are disrupted and we are isolated from people we care about. Having said that, we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, at long last.

Stress solutions

So in this article, I am going to share some strategies which will help you feel more safe and secure, and more connected.

1) Structure

It may sound facile but sticking to your normal routine really helps you feel more safe and secure. It brings a sense of familiarity and order to an uncertain and disordered time.  So try and make your routine mimic as much as possible your usual routine. Build into your day some quick wins – things you can get done easily which fuel your sense of effectiveness and motivation.

2) Media

Though it is important to keep up to date, it is hugely helpful to limit media to around 10 minutes a day. Otherwise it fuels anxiety levels. Try and read/watch/do positive things as much as possible. Our mental state has an influence on our immune system so not only will this help your mental health it could help you be immune to Covid-19 too.

3) Challenge negative thinking

It’s hard to avoid negative thinking at this time, especially if you are spending time with others who are negative and listening to fake news etc. But negative thinking will not support you.  This doesn’t mean to say that you pretend this is not happening, just don’t engage with the negative thoughts. When you spot one, just focus on what you can do about the situation and what you have to be grateful for. It is impossible to be grateful and negative at the same time.

4) Mindfulness/meditation/self-hypnosis

These are similar but not the same – the more you do of these, the calmer, more patient, more resourceful and less reactive you will be. They are investment of your time and in yourself. I use all of these in different ways and at different times. Powerful stuff. For a free COVID-Calm hypnosis MP3 download visit https://www.yourempoweredself.co.uk/covid-19-support/. Also your daily walk and your chores can be done mindfully which brings an extra layer of support and peace to you while going about your day.

5) Relationships

Ease relationships by asking those you live with what one thing you can do to make things easier for them – something small which will ease this enforced 24/7 time together.   We are not talking about a personality change here but small things like agreeing to pick up your socks, take turns with the cooking, not to talk through their favourite program, etc.

Agree a rota for chores. This makes sure that everyone is contributing evenly but also helps people who don’t usually participate to realise how difficult or boring some of these chores are. 

Agree to practice the Respect Rule: strictly no swearing, name calling or belittling during lockdown. Any breaches create a forfeit (more chores?) or a fine (for your favourite charity?). This can be a new way of interacting for some and a discipline worth cultivating.

Agree how to share your space in a respectful way: it may be that you need to work from the same desk and be on the phone / need quiet at the same time.  So, agree how to navigate this so you both/all get your needs met, knowing that perfection is not a possibility at this time.  We are seeking collaboration and compromise, not competition.  As a general rule, most people would benefit from a really good declutter as this helps bring a sense of order and calm in a period of chaos. It also means you will be able to focus on work rather than think about the clearing up/laundry/etc that needs doing.

Stay connected. Being in lockdown doesn’t mean you are locked out of the relationships that matter. Zoom/FaceTime/WhatsApp are great ways of staying in touch.  Don’t leave it to others – take the initiative yourself.

Make this a time when you work on the relationship you have with yourself: more compassion, more kindness. This is not a free pass for bad behaviour:  if you are out of line, own up to it, make up for it and learn from it. Then forgive yourself. Start to treat yourself how you would like others to treat you. 

Following these principles should help ease your journey through these challenging times and come through the other side calmer, stronger and wiser for it.

Tricia Woolfrey is a verified welldoing.org therapist in Surrey and Harley Street London, and online. She also works as a coach. 

Further reading

The importance of gratitude in times of crisis

How has life changed under lockdown?

Try this 4-step method to calm anxiety

Why do some people get more stressed than others?

Don't get stressed over things you can't control