Mental Health

Five simple steps to stop your pandemic stress from spiralling out of control

07 July 2020 - 13:04 By Yolisa Mkele
Part of the problem with managing stress is that we don't have access to some of our usual coping skills like going to the gym, says Sherrie Steyn, co-founder of Vimbo Health.
Part of the problem with managing stress is that we don't have access to some of our usual coping skills like going to the gym, says Sherrie Steyn, co-founder of Vimbo Health.
Image: 123RF/Aleksandr Davydov

Lockdown has been wreaking havoc with our collective mental health. We’ve been cooped up inside for the better part of half a year and now and when they’re deciding to let us out, Covid-19 infection rates are skyrocketing.

Even worse, some of our kids are going back to school while experts talk about us heading into the worst part of the coronavirus storm.

In short, we’re probably all feeling a little frazzled and looking for ways to manage our mental health.

Cue mental health start-up Vimbo Health, which has formulated a simple five-step plan to help you keep a handle on things in these unsettling times. Co-founder Sherrie Steyn elaborates:

1. KEEP A ROUTINE

Doing familiar tasks creates a sense of control and lowers uncertainty. A daily routine that involves eating and sleeping at regular times, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise, is essential to controlling anxiety. Your physical health and immune system will of course benefit as well.

So next time you're about to watch another episode of that great show, have a think about how it fits into your routine. If it's in your leisure time then great, but if it's way past your usual bedtime it's worth thinking twice.

2. STAY PRESENT

Worry is rooted in the past or future. By taking time to focus on the present, you can ensure your energy is focused where it is best used and most influential: here and now.

Though this may sound simple, it's human nature to be distracted by our thoughts. If your mind is racing, try doing a task or activity that holds your focus, especially those that require your concentration or physical movement. Activities like doing the dishes or trying a new recipe are great examples.

3. LEARN NEW COPING SKILLS

Psychologists often use the analogy of a bucket when describing stress and coping skills. Imagine your system as a bucket. The water pouring into your bucket represents the stressors or demands you are facing in life. The holes in the bottom of your bucket are your coping strategies, the things you do to help you relax and to deal with your demands.

We currently have the great Zambezi River of stress flowing into our buckets, and less access to our usual coping skills like going to the gym. So, we need a lot more holes in our buckets to stop them overflowing. Taking on new hobbies that are ‘lockdown friendly’ is advisable. Consider learning mindfulness and meditation*.

4. STAY IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Make a habit of keeping up communication with friends and family. Physical distancing does not have to mean complete social isolation.

5. BE KIND

Acts of kindness release dopamine, an endorphin associated with feelings of love and happiness, for both yourself and others. Remember to also be kind to yourself — studies show that building self-compassion can help us feel less stressed.

*Visit vimbohealth.com for access to free audio meditations.