What did covid do to our stress levels?

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Life is great, but it can also be stressful at times. Stress, or anxiety as it is also known as, is a staple in the modern world, regardless of where you live, how old you are, what your socioeconomic status is, whether you have a family or not etc. Depending on your individual circumstances, different things can affect you, but the result is the same: you feel stress.

Stress permeates our reality, and has shot through the roof during the covid pandemic of 2020. Humanity had high hopes for the new year (aka 2021) but as it turns out we are still riding the wave that is the surreal times of covid. Naturally, people all over the world report that they experience stress much more than usual. This is very a significant finding, albeit expected, because it helps the experts explain the current situation more accurately.

Some of the findings of various studies in 2020-2021 are the following:

· Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a sharp increase in the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication.

· There has been a substantial increase in alcohol and illicit drug use.

· Individuals report that they feel more anxious and fatigued.

· People report that their sleeping patterns are out of sync, thus not being able to rest.

· People report that they experience mood swings that are harder to control.

· Screen time has increased beyond measure as people try to fill their time but also keep themselves distracted during the repeated lockdowns. Added screen time further disrupts sleeping patterns.

· Psychological and physical abuse has increased, putting a lot of vulnerable people in danger and under stress.

· Couples and families report a lot of tension that explodes in the form of arguments and conflict.

· Parents feel overwhelmed by the demands of home-schooling and the lack of personal space.

· People report greater levels of loneliness, which adds to the overall decline of their mental health.

· Nurses, doctors and medical staff report very high levels of physical and emotional exhaustion.

The above findings paint a bleak picture of reality, but one that is undeniably true. Stress puts our health, our relationships and our overall wellbeing in danger and its damaging effects are intensified during covid.

Stress has been the focus of my work even before the pandemic, but I am ever amazed at how much it affects our lives. As a pilates teacher, I support people to get physically stronger, more flexible and I teach them how to stop holding tension patterns in their bodies, providing them with the tools to regulate themselves in between our sessions together. As a psychotherapist, I use a wide array of tools to guide my clients through their personal problems, offering my knowledge from a place of empathy and love so they can feel safe and comforted. My work and observations around stress over the years led to the inception of my signature method, The Integrative Approach. It is a highly specialized fusion of therapy and movement with elements of breathwork, designed to address stress mindfully and holistically. The process is fully tailored to the individual needs of my clients and largely depends on their life story.

Through my work I support people that wish to get to the route of their difficulties and are ready to free themselves from the restrains of stress, as it manifests in their body and psyche. It is phenomenal how much room for improvement there is, even for individuals that don’t come across as overwhelmed. Actually, that's the face of high-functioning anxiety. It is a sub-category of anxiety that tends to be overlooked and I will expand on it more in a dedicated post.

So let’s go back to stress and whether we can get a grip on it during the pandemic.

The findings I shared with you earlier in this post highlight two things:

1) Stress is in the forefront of our everyday life, especially so due to covid.

2) We need to address and learn how to manage it otherwise we are exposed to its detrimental effects.

I recently gave a workshop on stress to a women-only business group. I was surrounded by many bright minds, business owners and entrepreneurs. Most of them were type A personalities (aka candidates for high-functioning anxiety). What struck me was that despite all the success on the surface, everybody was feeling stressed and overworked on the inside (h.f. anxiety hypothesis confirmed). And to add to that, a big chunk of my audience was not aware of the extent of the consequences of stress. They all loved the workshop and it gave them food for thought. It also gave me the opportunity to reflect more of the importance of handling our stress responses, whether we are adults or children (children can suffer from stress too, but they tend to manifest differently).

Stress is a multifaceted phenomenon that affects our whole self, so it requires our attention. Being in denial about having it, or trying to brush it under the carpet is not be enough. And you guessed it, there is no quick fix to it. Which brings me to my next point. I recently saw an article about a wearable gadget that claims to “cancel stress”. It comes with a hefty price tag too and at the moment it’s available in the US. Knowing a lot about stress, I am conscious of the fact that there is no shortcut to “cancelling” it. There is simply no such thing. Getting a grip on our stress responses requires education, awareness, practice, commitment to a better lifestyle, and as such, it usually requires work with a therapist. So there is no magic pill; although there is a market for everything these days. Buying a device and convincing yourself that it is enough to make you stress-free illustrates how far away you truly are from actually tackling the issue…

That being said, please don’t get disheartened. Life is not linear but stress doesn’t have to take over! We can learn to manage our stress responses. And we can do that effectively, but we need to be willing to act on it and be committed to that positive change. Handling stress may seem like a huge feat, however it's essential for our wellbeing. Like every other big goal, regulating stress can be broken down to smaller steps and practices that are easy to follow. We are all different, but thankfully there are countless approaches that help with stress management and a lot of experts we can turn to. Therapy is a proven way to reduce stress. Regardless of the specific approach that the therapist has trained in, its main purpose is exactly that: to help people lower their anxiety.

As Lao Tzu famously said: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

The Integrative Approach (and me!) are here to guide you on your journey back to yourself.

The question is: are you ready to take that first step towards a stress-free, joyful and vibrant life?

P.S. Have you seen my free guide where I share 3 easy ways to ground yourself and

reduce stress in the morning? You can get it here: https://land.theintegrativeapproach.co.uk/

I've designed it in a way that you can easily incorporate these practices into your day!

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