Escaping the state of stress

The changes to our lives, health concerns and general level of uncertainty, caused by COVID-19, can lead to a range of responses; including anxiety and stress. Simply put, stress is the reaction most of us have to excessive pressures imposed upon us. Anxiety is what causes that stress – it is that feeling of being worried, tense, afraid – especially when things seem not be in control, when we cant be sure about what is about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.  

First things first – anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. It is human. What is important is to find ways to manage that anxiety. As team managers who care, we read and speak to people and try to decipher what, if anything, can help our people manage. 

Here is a quick list of things – in no particular order – that anyone who feels under stress might benefit from

  • Stay connected with people. Forget social networks – pick up the phone, send someone a text and video call them. Just chatting helps maintain a sense of normality and provides a different perspective on things. Even pick up the courage to talk about your worries. It’s ok to share concerns with others you trust –this may help them too.
  • Acceptance Anxiety is a normal emotion which we all feel from time to time. Accepting anxiety is the same as accepting that sometimes we feel angry, sad or happy. Just like those other emotions, anxiety will pass. However, if your anxiety is long-term and affecting your day-to-day life, please do not hesitate to support. It is ok to speak up.
  • Understand your anxiety Try keeping a diary or log your anxieties in any other way that suits you… to help you identify what’s affecting you and where you need to take action. This could help you spot patterns, triggers, or notice early signs of anxiety. And when you do take the time & trouble to write things out, please also be kind to yourself and recognise the good things too.
  • Stay on top of difficult feelings Concern about COVID-19 is normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their daily life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, quality of your meals, exercise, hydration, who you speak to, and where and how often you get information.
  • Challenge your anxious thoughts Our thinking can become distorted when we feel anxious. For example, a friend failing to return a text, may lead you to think that they are not talking to you. Ask yourself if that anxious thought a “fact or an opinion?”.
  • Try relaxation techniques Relaxation, mindfulness or breathing exercises can reduce tension and focus our awareness on the present moment. Stay in the moment – it also helps you focus on things you can control.
  • Try not to avoid situations If you are feeling anxious, you may want to avoid certain situations, however, this may make you feel worse over time. Instead, break down the situation into manageable chunks that you can achieve and regularly reflect on your progress. For instance… Pressure to keep up with “lockdown fads” like cooking everyday, reading a book a week etc may not be your cup of coffee… it is a pandemic, not Masterchef (as a popular meme goes). Keep your own counsel.
  • Instead, do things you enjoy Focus on your favourite hobby, relax indoors or virtually connect with others. If you cannot do all the things you normally would, think about how you could adapt them or try something new. Even if it is cleaning your cupboard or cataloguing old photos or whatever
  • Look after your sleep Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and good sleep hygiene practices such as avoiding screens before bed, reducing caffeine and creating a restful environment. Equally, Look after your body to stay feeling healthy. Try to eat balanced meals, drink enough water and move/exercise regularly.
  • Reduce repetitive news The most important thing you can do for yourself… is to limit the time you spend tracking coverage and progression of the outbreak, not just on social media but also on our raucous TV channels and other media. Consider turning them all off.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Amit Narayan
Partner & Managing Director, South Asia at Control Risks
Amit manages consultants who design, develop and implement risk-mitigation strategies for companies across South Asia. He has advised clients on political and regulatory risk, pre-investment risk, reputational DD, forensic investigations, public policy and stakeholder mapping. Amit has worked in Edelman in India and Burson-Marsteller in Singapore. He has also worked in-house at Vodafone in Singapore and The Walt Disney Company in Hong Kong.

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