Since the initiation of the COVID-19 pandemic, people's lives have changed drastically, impacting how we live, work, communicate, and socialize. These life changes can sometimes be stressful. When mental health is not prioritized, this can negatively harm the way we communicate and maintain social relationships, how we function in social environments, and how we perform and learn at work or school. However, the pandemic provides us an opportunity to learn about the importance of mental health and how we can manage stress.
Some common life stressors include:
- Job pressures
- Financial concerns
- Daily life demands
- Any expected or unexpected life changes.
Short-term and long-term stress
There are two types of stress: acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is also known as short-term stress. This can result from day-to-day problems such as being stuck in traffic, getting ready for work or school, or trying to meet assignment deadlines. However, these stresses are short lived and can be managed by our bodies in most instances. If problems persist for longer periods, this can manifest into long-term or chronic stress. This can negatively impact our physical and mental health.
It is important to recognize stress symptoms. Stress can affect your body (e.g., headache, fatigue, stomach upset, chest pain, sleep problems), your mood (e.g., anxiety, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, anger, sadness, lack of focus or motivation), and your behavior (e.g., tobacco use, drug or alcohol misuse, social withdrawal, and overeating or undereating). Be aware of stress symptoms so you can take steps to manage stress optimally.
If stress is unchecked it can lead to health problems like heart problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes. See below strategies to manage and relieve stress:
- Take time to learn about your stress triggers
- Seek help and support from family and friends
- Manage time and prioritize your commitments
- Plan by preparing yourself ahead of time for things
- Engage in practices such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or being in nature
- Set aside time for yourself
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle – eat well, engage in regular physical activity, get 6-8 hours of sound sleep, and maintain positive social relationships
- Avoid using alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
- Seek professional help if required.
Read more about stress management in this article.
Benefits of reduced stress
We may not be able to completely get rid of stress, but we can decrease the amount of stress that we have. There are benefits to this, such as:
- Improved sleep
- Better and positive mood
- Weight control
- Decreased muscle tension
- Better relationships with family and friends.
Stress is a normal part of daily life that everybody experiences. Sometimes it can be overwhelming if problems persist long-term. However, being mindful and aware of one’s feelings is important to manage stress. If you are unable to manage or cope with stressors in your life, seek professional help from a healthcare provider, professional counselor, or therapist.
Mayo Clinic 1 | Mayo Clinic 2 | Ministry of Public Health-Qatar | National Institute of Mental Health | U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Ms. Jasmine Aboughanem, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Karima Chaabna, and Dr. Amit Abraham
Mr. John Hayward