Over 1,050 Happiful subscribers shared their personal experiences of stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 68% confirm their stress levels have continued to increase over the course of 2020
A survey conducted with Happiful Magazine subscribers, ahead of National Stress Awareness Day 2020 (4 November), has painted a picture of increased stress levels and concerns for mental health over the winter months, as well as the importance of contact with friends, family and free online resources in managing wellbeing.
Over 1,050 of our readers responded to Happiful’s stress survey during October, answering questions about recent stress levels, future concerns and any positive lifestyle changes they might have made as a result of COVID restrictions.
Where are we at?
When asked about stress levels over the past few months, 68% of our respondents shared that they've been extremely stressed since September and their stress levels have continued to increase since the first announcement of lockdown, on March 23.
Concern around family and relationships was the top cause of stress (56.8%), followed by health worries (54.2%) and general work pressures (53.9%). Loneliness and money worries were also cited as being major stress factors by a large percentage of respondents.
With so much uncertainty ahead, and the introduction of a tiered system of restrictions across the country, Happiful asked subscribers to share their greatest concerns about future months.
73% expressed that they worried about their general state of mental health and wellbeing, and 53% said they were concerned about lockdown restrictions in winter months. Just under half of Happiful’s respondents noted that they were feeling stressed about their home and family life moving forward, as well as the lack of clarity around COVID restrictions.
Stress is the enemy of clarity. It is pervasive and, unchecked, will seep into every area of your life
The survey was carried out so that Happiful, and our sister site Counselling Directory, can focus our collective efforts upon the areas our readers need the most support with.
Counselling Directory member Beverley Blackman reviewed the results of our survey and shared her initial thoughts on managing stress.
“Stress is the enemy of clarity,” Beverley explains. “It is pervasive and, unchecked, will seep into every area of your life. It's easy to feel completely overwhelmed and out of control when you are stressed.”
Beverley shares that stopping to consider the source and impact of stress, is the first step to addressing this. “Take some time for yourself to think things through, she continues. “Mindfully make yourself a hot drink, sit down somewhere quiet, and consider the problem. What is the nature of the problem? Where does it lie - is it work stress, or life stress? Start separating it out from the rest of your life so that you focus exclusively on the problem itself, not the knock-on effects. This will stop you feeling overwhelmed.”
Considering where you do and do not have control is the next step. “Focus your energies on bringing about change through the things within your control. Let go of the rest,” she says.
Make time for the things you enjoy - time with friends, time exercising, time reading a good book, time spent outside, anything that focuses on your wellbeing
While stress can bring about negative thought loops, Beverley notes that it's important to challenge these, if you want to bring about change. “It's easy to think negatively, 'I can't do it,' or 'I'll never manage this,' and stay passive and stuck. But if you meet the challenge consistently and positively, you will bring about the changes you want to make.
Finally, breaking challenges down into smaller chunks, seeking support from others, and making time for recreational activities, are all crucial in the management of stress levels.
“Make time for the things you enjoy - time with friends, time exercising, time reading a good book, time spent outside, anything that focuses on your wellbeing,” Beverley insists. “These are the things that will help you relax - which in turn makes it easier for your mind to deal with stress.”
Taking time to redefine what’s important
While some of the results showed stress levels peaking, others showed positive change and behaviours emerging from our difficult circumstances.
Over half of our respondents (56.6%) have spent time reflecting upon what they might like to do differently in the future, 32.8% are spending more time with their family and 31.9% have more time for hobbies and new interests.
The Happiful survey also reveals that tough times may actually have brought some of us closer together as we seek to address our stress. 66% of respondents have reached out to their friends, while 61% have spoken to their family about their stress and concerns.
Online information and resources have been a major source of support for a large percentage of respondents too, with 60.7% reporting they’ve used them consistently over the past eight months.
21% of respondents noted that they'd spoken to a NHS doctor about their stress concerns and 14% sought private therapy.
November's edition of Happiful Magazine is dedicated to the subject of stress and contains actionable advice and articles from mental health and wellbeing professionals. Buy your copy here.
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