Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing many of us a considerable amount of stress and worry. But how much worry is too much?
And when does a natural – and in some ways healthy – response to a stressful situation become something more serious?
In order to establish whether what you’re feeling is ‘normal’ stress and worry, it’s first important to know exactly what stress, anxiety and depression are.
What is stress?
At its most basic level, stress is a common response to difficult situations or events. Most people are reasonably equipped to deal with stress, although there are various factors that play an important role in your ability to do so.
Things that commonly bring on feelings of stress include:
- experiencing something new or unexpected
- experiencing something that threatens our sense of self
- feeling as though we have little control over a situation.
It’s fair to say that these are all likely to have occurred for many of us, if not all of us, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most people can adapt fairly well to stress as long as it’s short-lived.
But stress can become problematic for both physical and mental health if it’s accumulative and long-term.
Learn more about when stress leads to anxiety and depression and see our tips on ways to reduce stress.
What is anxiety?
While everyone feels anxious from time to time, anxiety is more than just feeling worried or stressed. Anxious feelings and stress are a common response to a situation where we feel under strain – a global pandemic is definitely up there – however, this usually passes once the main source of stress has gone.
If your main source of stress was linked to the lockdown restrictions, for instance, you may find that your levels of stress and worry start to drop as restrictions are eased.
For others, the main source of stress could be something else entirely, such as the ongoing impact of the pandemic on your income.
And there will be those who have navigated this time quite happily, and the easing of restrictions may actually be a cause of stress.
Regardless, it’s natural that different people will be experiencing this time – and the associated stress – very differently.
It’s important to know that if your anxious feelings linger, occur regularly, and make daily life difficult and unenjoyable, you may need to seek support or treatment for an anxiety condition.
Find out more about the signs and symptoms of anxiety and ways to manage it.
In this personal story, Camilla, who has suffered with anxiety for most of her life, shares how she has navigated the global pandemic.
What is depression?
Feeling low, irritable or sad now and again is completely natural, and is even to be expected given recent times, but if you’re experiencing these feelings for longer than a month and to the point where your day-to-day life is seriously impacted, it’s time to get help.
Depression is a serious condition that affects both physical and mental health. Seeking help as early on as possible will aid your recovery. Contacting your GP is the first step.
Here you can find more information on depression, including signs, symptoms and ways to support your mental health.
Get a sense of how you’re going
Once you have a good understanding about what stress, anxiety and depression are, get a feel for where you’re at with your own mental health using this simple checklist, which focusses on your thoughts, feelings and behaviour over the past four weeks.
It’s important to note that it's not a diagnosis – only a health professional can provide that – but it can help you monitor and gauge how you’re coping. It’s equally important to understand that your results are likely to be impacted by what we’ve been through in terms of the pandemic. Regardless if you do feel that your thoughts and feelings are impacting your everyday life in a negative way, it’s always better to speak to a professional who can provide support and guidance.
If you feel even a little bit uncertain or unsettled but don’t think your concerns are ‘important enough’ to call a support service – they are. That’s exactly why Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service has been set up. You can talk to a counsellor at any time of day on 1800 512 348.
If it feels like things are getting out of control, for immediate support call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If there is immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, always call triple zero (000).