It goes without saying that the last few weeks have left the globe reeling with an unprecedented wave of anxiety given the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is almost serendipitous that as we all try to adjust to life under the lockdown or confinement measures, the month of April also happens to be Stress Awareness Month. 

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992. During this annual thirty day period, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the globe join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for managing stress in these modern times.

What is stress?

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, stress was a frightening reality for many people as they battled various issues such as growing unemployment, family conflict, and personal illness. Not to mention the added stress that comes from social media. There are various factors in our day to day lives that can cause or trigger stress. Stress can be triggered by many things including work, deadlines, finances, traffic, and relationship issues. Stress is a natural reaction, as the body tries to deal with any negative pressures placed on it. In some instances, stress can actually be useful when dealing with high-pressured, demanding situations, e.g. it can help us perform optimally for big transaction negotiations or trial preparation. 

Stress can become a problem when these pressures become overwhelming, and in some cases, can be a precursor to more serious anxiety disorders and even depression. Some indicators of stress may include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in eating habits
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Unhealthy eating 

How to manage stress 

Undoubtedly given the current global health crisis stress levels are at an all-time high for many. The good news is stress can be managed through the use of various stress management techniques that equip you with the tools to handle stress triggers and stressful situations in a structured way. Techniques to help you manage stress in general, as well as COVID-19 stress, include the following:

  1. Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it. Instead, challenge yourself to drink more water – your body and your skin will thank you for it.
  2. Take part in physical activity as part of your daily routine. There are so many options be it working out at the gym, running, talking a walk or doing a dance class. While we observe lockdown there are plenty of online workouts to help you stay in shape in the comfort of your own home. Check out some of the best home workouts here.
  3. Get more sleep. Try to aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.
  4. Talk to someone. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective. Just by virtue of the times we live in, everybody is encouraged to see a therapist, particularly people of color as we often carry generational trauma.
  5. Start a journaling practice. Writing about stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health. 
  6. Spend an hour doing something you love. The lockdown conditions have presented opportunities to spend time doing the things we love such as reading, cooking, listening to music, spending more time with our children. Whatever it may be, you can also carry that practice into your daily life even when the confinement restrictions have been relaxed.

Do not hesitate to seek professional help 

It is no secret that building a career within the legal profession is and can be a very stressful journey. Studies show that the suicide rate amongst lawyers is rising.  If you, or someone that you know, have been struggling with stress over a long period of time and feel overwhelmed we recommend getting some professional help. 

Here are some useful links.

Best Online Therapy Programs of 2020

South African Depression and Anxiety Group 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

NHS Suicidal Thoughts Help Site 

The greatest weapon against our stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” 

 – William James 

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