Stress as Part of Me and My Environment

Nelt avatar Nelt 27.04.2020.

Autor: Ivana Idei Todorić, psychologist

The global coronavirus pandemic caused a set of changes, both in us and in our environment. The situation that we are currently facing requires from us to adapt our life and work habits, as well as to change the way in which we socialize and communicate. As we find ourselves in  an unexpected situation, one which we cannot control, the feeling of uneasiness and stress occurs more frequently than ever.

Coming face to face with such an unpredictable situation has lead us to constantly reassess: how to remain productive at work, how to finish our work tasks, how to complete our work tasks along with our house chores, how to control our children and their obligations, how (if we are living alone) to get everything done and not feel lonely, how to remain healthy, how to protect our family, how to maintain our previous routine, how to know what is going to happen next…

The majority of people are facing these questions. It is important to know that this is a common reaction to an uncommon situation. When worries abound you, say to yourself: Yes, it is difficult for me but I am not alone. Everyone is going through this…

In our surroundings, as well as in our conversations, stress is a frequent issue with a negative connotation – caused by a negative experience or uneasiness. When viewed from a single perspective, we could say that this is the case. However, stress also has its positive sides.

You must be asking yourself right now, how can stress be positive? The answer really lies within us, in our perception of an event. Stress can also be one of the strongest drivers, motivating us to change our behavior, to make a decision, to change our circumstances, to find a way to feel better.

Regardless of this, the majority of people will have a negative reaction to stress and this is OK. It is OK to admit that at this moment we are not feeling well; it is OK that everything is not perfect; it is OK that we cannot accomplish everything; it is perfectly OK to show our weakness and say how we feel.

What is stress?

Stress represent a consequence or personal experience after something has surpassed our capabilities. It presents a part of our perception of reality and how we experience it (Source: “Coronavirus and Mental Health: Psychological Aspects, Advice and Recommendations”, Ljiljana Muslic Ph.D.). Every event that influences a change in our current functioning and requires a change of habits, is a form of stress. It is inevitable that it creates a feeling of exhaustion, both in the psychological and physical sense, be it positive or negative.

How do we Know When Stress is Positive for Us and When it is Negative?

Many say that stress is like a  “cup of coffee”. If we hold the cup in our hand for several minutes, it is OK. However, if we hold it for several hours, our hand starts to hurt, we start shaking, our muscles get tired, our thoughts are solely focused on the cup we are holding.

The same is with stress. “Holding the cup” for a long time may have an adverse effect on our organism, resulting in – hindered daily functioning. Then our organism sends a message, “don’t forget to put down the cup”, that is to say to perceive events that we find stressful in another way and adapt our behavior to the circumstances in which we are in. In that case, the intensity of stress will decrease.

What Can we do in the Current Situation in Order to Reduce the Intensity of Stress?

In crisis and unpredictable situations, we have a feeling that we cannot cope alone with everything that is happening, using the usual methods for tackling stress. We have probably already heard the majority of recommendations and advice and put them “aside”, somewhere.

However, it is important to be aware of the fact that comprehensive research stands behind the majority of this advice. Research on facing stress shows that taking certain advice has a positive effect on the overall benefit for the organism, creating a sense of security and taking control of the situation.

In view of this, carefully read the text below, because you might have manifold benefits from some of the listed methods.

Regardless of the fact that our daily life is not the same, it is important to have a daily plan. It is not important what we will be doing that day, whether these are very important things, whether these are private or business tasks.

It is important to plan  – who goes shopping, who takes care of the kids, when to do your tasks, when to take meetings, when to work out, when to speak with friends… The plan can be made on a daily or weekly basis. A planned daily routine gives a feeling of security and lowers the feeling of uncertainty.

The second recommendation is communication. Although gatherings with people dear to us are prohibited, this does not prevent us from staying in touch with them. Speak to the people around you, to your colleagues, ask them how they are feeling, tell them how you are feeling, what you are going through, show your feelings towards others – it is OK for people to express their emotions.

The next step is to show that we understand each other, that we are with them and that we can help – this presents a measure which can calm someone else’s fear and reduce stress – it has been proven that nurturing relationships and helping others is a key thing, which will make us happier.

Frequent changes in mood are normal – whether you are sad, disappointed, scared… All of this is OK.

When we notice a feeling of anxiety, we should pause, set aside 2 -3 minutes, think about what is happening at that moment, what we are feeling, what we can identify. After this we should ask ourselves: “What can I do now that will make me feel better?”.

Most frequently, the answer is – To accept things as they are.