Managing Stress Levels in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

Who can honestly hold their hand up and say that they are not feeling some type of stress in their life at the moment?

The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. By using the term ‘adverse reaction’, it shows that stress isn’t a positive thing to endure. So, it’s a myth to say a certain level of stress can be a positive thing. Of course people need goals, aims and targets – they give people motivation and drive. But that is not stress. Stress has no positives to it.

The impact of COVID-19 on stress

Life can be stressful at the best of times, however the current global pressures which have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have increased stress levels dramatically. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, over a million people worldwide have lost their lives to COVID-19, people have been working longer hours to cover furloughed staff, lockdowns have isolated people from their friends and family and the economy has plummeted resulting in financial difficulties for many. These factors have all been thrust at us as a ‘new normal’ way of life which can be hard to come to terms with.

The opinions and lifestyle survey which took place between the 30th of September and the 4th of October found that 72% of adults were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ worried about the effect that the Coronavirus was having on their life right now. Furthermore it found that anxiety levels for adults had increased to 4.3 which is the highest it has been since April. The nation is currently experiencing a crisis unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

The 2nd-6th of November is Stress Awareness Week. This year, it’s never been more important to show our steel and grit as a nation by rallying around to support friends and family who need it most.

Reduce your stress levels

Everyone copes with and manages stress differently, but having a positive outlook is key to managing your stress levels. Here are some tips if you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress:

  • Do something about it, do not ignore it. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, square breathing and sensory grounding could make a significant impact. Stress is there because you’re worried and that’s OK.
  • Allow yourself both mental breaks and work breaks where possible. If not, you risk burnout.
  • Talking is one of the best ways to relieve your stress and anxiety, a problem shared is a problem halved. Speaking about the thing that your stress is stemming from may help.
  • It is egotistical to believe that you are an island. Dealing with things on your own can be counter-productive as you have to carry the burden on your own. It’s OK to not be OK.
  • Avoid self-medicating. This can lead to lifelong repercussions. Excessive drinking and taking non-prescribed drugs can have a negative lasting effect and should be avoided.

Mental health conditions stem from stress

According to research by the Office for National Statistics, almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the Coronavirus pandemic in June 2020. This had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).

Of those experiencing some form of depression, 84.9% felt their wellbeing was being affected by feeling increasingly stressed or anxious.

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by completing a risk assessment and acting upon it. The Health and Safety Executive has really useful information for employers on how to look for signs of stress within teams and how to combat stress in the workplace.

The importance of first aid for mental health training

Introducing qualified mental health first aiders into your workplace can have a direct positive impact on the support that stressed employees can receive. They’ll receive emotional guidance in a timely manner before it gets to the stage that they have to take time off work due to their stress levels.

Staff who are trained to support individuals who are struggling with stress or other mental health concerns will be able to signpost them to the correct support mechanisms and enable early intervention – which can have a huge positive impact on both the individual and the organisation.

FREE First Aid for Mental Health training

To promote greater mental health inclusivity as part of Stress Awareness Week, our sister company – and mental health experts, Connect2Care, are offering every business two FREE places on their Awareness for First Aid for Mental Health training. This is a saving of over £150!

Learners will become mental health aware with Connect2Care’s half-day interactive online workshop. As part of this course, attendees will gain the knowledge to identify suspected mental health conditions and the skills to start a conversation about mental health concerns.

To take advantage of this offer, please email [email protected] with the contact name and email address of your company’s chosen attendees.

Accredited further training

Connect2Care offers three levels of accredited First Aid for Mental Health training:

Level 1 Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health:  This course is a great starting point to educating your workforce in First Aid for Mental Health. It provides learners with the knowledge to recognise suspected mental ill health, the skills needed to start a conversation with a person in distress, and signpost them towards professional help.

Level 2 First Aid for Mental Health:  This course is targeted at creating a positive culture towards mental health within the workplace. Learners will build knowledge of the most common mental health conditions, how to start a conversation about mental health with a person in distress and signpost them to help as required. By successfully completing this course, learners can be considered as a point of contact within the workplace to support First Aid for Mental Health.

Level 3 Supervising First Aid for Mental Health: This course covers a wider range of mental health conditions, building on the range of therapies and treatment options available to someone will mental ill health. It is suitable for staff of all levels, but is aimed at those who hold a supervisory/managerial position with the responsibility of supporting and implementing a positive mental health culture within the workplace. By successfully completing this course, learners can be classed as the responsible person for First Aid for Mental Health in their workplace.

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