The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered us all into a time of uncertainty and fear. This invisible entity has not only generated widespread healthcare panic, but has also rendered us all to be cooped up in our homes for nearly two years now, amidst all the unpredictability. If you are feeling more stressed and anxious now than you ever have before, fret not, you are not alone.
It has become increasingly important to equip ourselves with certain strategies to combat the effects of all the stress and anxiety we are experiencing. Strategies for coping with stress generally fall under two categories: a) problem-focused coping and b) emotion-focused coping.
Problem-focused coping strategies directly address the problem or situation that causes stress, thus consequently reducing the stress experienced. For example, think about how many times you have been stressed due to college/ work? Is it possible to pinpoint what exactly was the source of the stress? It could be a number of things such as upcoming exams, temperamental clients, or too many online meetings. While it is not always straightforward, knowing the problem can help devise a strategy to address it. Some problem-focused strategies include:
Time Management: having too much on our plate when faced with a time crunch is a stressor experienced by many. Thus, improving on time management skills can help organize tasks in a realistic way that can be easily followed. Creating a calendar (we know it can be tedious) with all the tasks and deadlines appropriately placed, can help relieve the stress of having a lot to do in very little time, since everything is accounted for.
Ask for support: the novel work-from-home scenario has drastically changed the work environment that we were all so familiar with. Dealing with the changes often brings feelings of stress with it. Thus, as the current situation is understandably hard for all, do not hesitate to ask your colleagues for help. Enlisting such support can help reduce the stress experienced, especially since your colleague may be sharing similar feelings.
Take time off social media: if say, the news about the pandemic is the source of the stress experienced; try limiting the exposure to social media and news channels. You could perhaps scroll through your feed to remain updated at the beginning of the day and then focus on more meaningful tasks to keep yourself distracted.
The drawback of problem-focused coping is that these strategies cannot be used with stressors that are out of the individual’s control, such as the death of a loved one or the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The death of a loved one, for starters, involves dealing with emotions such as loss and grief- which is where emotion-focused coping comes into place.
Emotion-focused coping strategies involve regulating emotional reactions to stress, such as fear, anxiety, or anger. Regulating such emotions can help an individual experience the stressor differently, thus finally altering the way they are impacted by it (Amnie, 2018). Applying emotion-focused coping strategies allows one to be able to think more clearly when faced with a stressor, and be able to access solutions that would otherwise not be available if they were feeling overwhelmed- as those in stressful situations can not always come up with effective solutions. Some emotion-focused strategies include:
Reframing- it involves shifting the way you see a problem, which makes a difference by allowing or not allowing yourself to feel stressed by the problem. Reframing does not mean pretending that the stressor does not exist, but includes looking for possible solutions, and seeing things from a different perspective.
Journaling- works as an emotional outlet for painful emotions experienced as a result of stress. Jotting down one’s emotional responses to events can help them better process what they experienced, and can also help explore positive reframing.
Meditation- is an age-old practice that has been proven to help calm the mind and body, making one less reactive to stressors. It allows one to separate themselves from their thoughts, thus allowing them to react more calmly, as opposed to out of fear or panic.
Finally, there is always the option of seeking out professional help when the circumstances can be hard to control, or the emotions felt are too painful. You need not be alone. Seeking out a mental health professional can help manage the emotional distress experienced, and can help you grow.
Simone is an intern at Vijayash Foundation who developed a keen interest in psychology right from when she began reading crime thrillers in 8th grade, and is currently pursuing a Master's in Clinical Psychology. Having worked in a number of mental health clinics, she believes that mental health awareness is of utmost importance in today's society, as it allows for a quicker intervention- if required- and then faster recovery. Thus, she believes that being respectful and accepting of individuals with any mental health issues can remove the strong barrier that hinders them from seeking help to deal with the problem.
Her hobbies include cooking and reading a variety of literature. Finally, if at all, you will always find a packet of biscuits in Simone's bag for all the stray dogs she might meet outside.