The causes of stress are facing more scrutiny than ever. It is a disruptive mental block on effective work, productivity, and can lead to increased resignations. What causes people the most stress? How do they help themselves through it? In order to understand the main causes that fuelled people’s stress, we polled our followers to learn about their experiences.
What has been your biggest cause of stress for the past 12 months?
After consecutive lockdowns, only recently have we started to enjoy a return to normality. Many people still list Covid-19 and lockdowns as their main stress factor in the last 12 months. The pandemic has impacted individuals and families differently, but overall this impact has increased stress levels. The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures that were deemed necessary to fight it created numerous social problems. In the UK, thousands of families lost loved ones as approximately 180,000 people died after contracting the disease. Many people lost their jobs, and households were forced to budget with spending declining among all income quintiles in the year to March 2021.
Since then, whilst spending stabilised, the rise of inflation has spurred an almost unprecedented rise in the cost of living. In this vein financial concerns (33%) and Covid-19 and lockdowns (33%) were highlighted by our respondents as their main stress catalysts in recent times.
This led us to question if the suffering endured as a result of the pandemic and its cumulative effects fostered the rise of the levels of psychological distress experienced by families. In order to test this hypothesis we asked the following question:
What real impact did Covid-19 have on your household?
Whilst some people (15%) dealt with lockdowns better than others, we weren’t overly surprised that a majority of respondents (62%) reported that Covid-19 had a negative impact on their household. Indeed, existing research suggests that 10 million people (8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children and young people) in England will need support for their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic over the next three to five years.
Some things are out of our control. Although we have been doing our best to stay safe, we do not choose whether or not to contract a disease and cannot fully predict or prevent things like inflation or a global pandemic. But when it comes to stress, we do have some agency as individuals to prevent it from taking over our lives. We wanted to find the best way to balance stress levels and so we asked our followers:
How do you prevent a situation from getting too stressful to manage?
Setting goals for ourselves can provide us with a sense of reason, drive our progress and help us manage our stress levels. However, if we set unrealistic goals we are effectively setting ourselves up for disappointment and a sense of failure that stimulates stress.
The bottom line is that setting goals is a great way to organise our priorities and it can make us more productive. But only if the goals we set out are realistic and achievable. That is why 36% of our respondents believe that the best way to manage stress is to set realistic goals. This helps us to manage expectations and has the potential to provide us with an overall sense of fulfilment. Time management is also a key factor to consider when thinking about stress prevention and it ties in with setting realistic goals. That is why 27% of our respondents believe that good time-management is the best way to prevent stress.
We only have 24 hours in a day and it can be overwhelming to juggle work, responsibilities, family and personal life in such a small amount of time. Good time management skills lead to improved efficiency and can be a great way of preventing stressful situations from getting out of hand.
Despite the truthfulness of the old saying: ‘prevention is better than cure’, sometimes it is impossible to prevent stress. There are certain situations in life that are simply unavoidable. It does not matter how good you are at preventing stress, you must also be equipped to deal with it when it arrives unexpectedly. There is ‘no one size fits all’ rule for managing stress, and therefore we asked people:
How do you manage your own stress?
The answer to this question was very consistent. The best way to deal with stress is to do something you enjoy. Whether it is exercising, cooking, reading, watching TV, listening to music, going out with friends, or going on holiday. We all have something that we enjoy doing and that can help us clear our mind. The inability to do the things that we love during lockdowns was detrimental to the mental health crisis that followed. Nevertheless, as we turn the page on this chapter of our lives we must relearn to relax and this implies doing more of the things that bring us joy.