Tips for managing stress and anxiety during times of uncertainty

March 2020

When the world around us feels like it’s spiralling, it’s common to experience a sense of foreboding or powerlessness. Uncertainty can equal panic, and it’s normal to feel like you might imminently burst out into tears or laughter. So, let’s all take a moment to focus on ourselves, and take some simple steps to help stay calm and centred.

 

When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, looking after your mental and physical health should be your priority. It’s essential to help stay positive and to make sure you can tackle problems with a clear head.

Although there may be ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, that doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy ride getting there. That is why it can be helpful to take some proactive but simple steps to help tackle any stress and anxiety that comes your way.

 

Put pen to paper

Even when events are out of your control, there are ways you can take back power. Mind.org suggests keeping a diary of when you’re feeling anxious. By including your stress triggers, you can start to notice why your anxiety is starting and find ways to address it.

You might also find that jotting down why you’re worried can help you spot any irrational fears. It’s part of human nature to think the worst could happen, but for many, it won’t be the reality. Remember to write down positive and practical thoughts too. You can use these contemplations to help bring you back down to earth if you notice you’re starting to think irrationally.

 

Avoid obsessing over the facts (and the fiction)

If a situation carries any uncertainty, we’re naturally keen to try and find some answers. But scrolling through the internet can mean we feel overwhelmed with information – some of which is merely speculative, and not helpful.

It’s crucial to stay informed, but you can choose where you find the information you need. Official government websites should answer all your need-to-know questions, and they’ll be worded in a way to avoid frightening you. Following advice from sources you trust can also help you feel in control.

Some people find it helpful to limit how much time they spend checking updates and messages. Try setting a timer for an hour, and during this time focus directly on getting through your to-do list. Not only will you stop digging yourself into a news-story hole, you may also find you stay more productive and on-task, bringing you closer to your goals.

 

Find your community

As humans, we need social interaction. We have become ever reliant on trusting and supporting each other in order to survive. However, factors such as increasing use of technology, remote working and people needing to move away from loved ones are all contributing to a steep rise in loneliness. Over nine million people in the UK say they often feel lonely.

Lots of people try to distance themselves from others when they’re feeling stressed, perhaps because we don’t feel confident in ourselves and we don’t want to talk about a situation. But we need social interaction to keep our minds healthy.

During times of stress and uncertainty, it’s important to build and nurture our relationships with others. If you find yourself isolated or far away from friends and family, make use of the plus-side of technology and reconnect. You can set up a video call, either one-to-one or as a group, or even use apps to watch TV and films with your friends remotely.

If you’re not sure who to speak to, there are a number of peer support groups, where you can share your own concerns and learn how others have dealt with them. 

At Fora, we work hard to keep our sense of community thriving. Every week, we share podcasts and blogs, and invite our Residents to join us for digital events to spark conversation and bring people together. General consensus suggests the content also makes a great tool for switching-off and relaxing. Keep your eyes peeled for our curated content and digital events programme in our next newsletter.

 

Lend a hand

A huge part of social interaction is helping others. A small study found that performing daily acts of kindness helps to reduce stress. Doing tasks for others can help boost our self-esteem, give us purpose and help us feel part of a community.

Favours don’t need to be huge or life changing to make a difference. Simply offering to grab something from the shops for a neighbour who struggles to get out the house, donating to a food bank and having weekly calls with someone who feels isolated can significantly improve your mood and outlook.

 

Find a distraction

Our thoughts can be our worst enemy. If stress and negative thoughts are whirring, it’s time to distract yourself. Crosswords, sudoku, puzzles and card games are said to help us release dopamine, the reward chemical, making them a great mood booster. Plus, puzzles can make us better problem solvers, helping us get through difficult episodes.

If you’re not in the mood to tackle a puzzle then reading a chapter of a book, watering the plants or finding a new recipe to try out can also be quick and effective distractions.

 

Mind (and body) over matter

Focusing on your health can help feel like you’re taking back control when you feel unsettled. Exercise can act as an achievable challenge and creating a routine can help give your days some much needed structure. Follow a workout video and practise whenever suits you. We’re uploading yoga and HIIT training videos to our YouTube channel, ideal for anyone looking for a good stretch, a rebalance or to build strength. Give them a watch here.

It’s also worth making some time to get into nature whenever possible. Studies at the University of California Berkeley show that experiencing awe in nature helps lower stress and improve our wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be mountains and canyons – even admiring trees that are hundreds of years old or watching plants and vegetables grow can give us the feelings of wonder and surprise.

Remember not to neglect your need for sleep. Stress releases cortisol, a chemical that gives us a spike in energy for fight or flight. Too much cortisol and it can be difficult to get a decent night’s sleep. A few minutes’ meditation and breathing exercises could help you relax and drift into a longer, deeper sleep. 

It can also be helpful to get into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day to support your body’s circadian rhythm. 

 

Fuel for a more positive mood

We’ve all rooted around in the biscuit tin and chocolate stocks when we’ve felt stressed, but it can leave us feeling sluggish and guilty further down the line. By sticking to a healthy eating regime (with a few treats along the way), you’ll be taking some control with positive food choices.

Eating a variety of fruit and veg will keep your vitamin and minerals up, helping your body run like clockwork. Getting plenty of lean protein is also important for managing stress because it contains amino acids, which the brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings.

 

Stay tuned

We’re here to support our Fora community through stressful days. Keep following our updates and we’ll keep making sure there’s interesting and helpful content for you to enjoy.