Throughout the last year, the impact of a global pandemic has increased stress levels for people all over the world. Although pre-pandemic life had its fair share of stressors, Covid-19 introduced a new form of stress that many of us weren’t prepared to cope with.
This type of negative stress has made it difficult for people to bounce back and return to their normal routines. Effects of prolonged stress can negatively impact a person spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Many people will continue to feel these effects, possibly for a long time after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
There are different ways to look at stress. It’s important to remember that not all of the stress we experience is necessarily bad. Good/positive stress can occur in the absence of a perceived threat or fear. We often experience good stress during times when we feel energetic or excited about something.
We actually need good stress because it allows us to maintain a healthy outlook. Positive stress can motivate us and keep us working toward healthy goals. Think about completing a project for work, studying for an exam or playing sports. These positive stressors help keep us focused on succeeding in our endeavors.
Another type of stress is daily stress, which is the “normal” stress of daily life. Going to work, paying bills, taking care of the family, and managing household chores are examples of daily stress. This type of stress probably sounds familiar because everyone experiences it to some extent on a daily basis. It can fluctuate between more and less stressful, but it is always there.
Bad stress is another type of stress which can be broken down into two categories: acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress can be caused by a traumatic event such as a sudden death, serious injury, or unexpected occurrence. Remember the concept of flight, fight, or freeze? These reactions usually happen during times of acutely stressful situations.
Chronic stress is when we have recurring stress that lasts over a long period of time. Things like strained relationships, unfulfilling jobs, and illnesses can create chronic stress. Over time, chronic stress can become unmanageable and may lead to other serious issues.
How do we determine if the stress we are experiencing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming an unhealthy burden? First, look for negative emotions and feelings related to the pandemic. This can feel like a prolonged sense of fear, anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, grief, lack of motivation, and hopelessness.
While these emotions are all a normal part of life, it is important to cultivate methods for coping with chronic stress when we notice symptoms persisting for extended periods of time. Some great ways to combat chronic stress include exercise, journaling, positive self-talk, keeping up with a routine, committing to a healthy lifestyle, and developing good eating habits.
Most importantly, know that you are not alone. Spend time with people who are positive, those who can laugh with you, and those who can relate to your stress and triggers.
By Teresa Mercer, LCSW, LCAC