x

Unable to process your request

Practical ways to cope when you feel things are getting too much

Life can be stressful at the best of times, but life took an unexpected twist with the arrival of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic. In one way or another, we’ve all had new stresses and changes to deal with. From worrying about our health more, our jobs and how to keep the kids entertained during lockdown, to not being able to spend time with the people we love – 2020 was truly unsettling.

Dealing with stress for a long period of time can affect both your physical and mental health.

As the confusing times look set to continue for a little while longer, it’s important for us all to know practical ways for how to deal with long-term stress.

What is stress?

We’ve all at some point felt what it’s like to be stressed. It can still be tricky to know what stress actually means though. Put simply, it’s a feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope due to situations or events that put pressure on us. It could be anything from having lots to do and think about, experiencing something new or unexpected, or feeling that we aren’t in control of a certain situation. Stress can mean different things to different people.

What's the difference between long-term & short-term stress?

Short-term or acute stress, is a feeling you experience for a short period of time. Maybe you’re stuck in traffic and late for work, you’ve had an argument with a friend or received criticism from your boss. It’s an annoying feeling but it usually passes pretty quick. Long-term or chronic stress is just as it sounds, it’s feeling stressed for a long period of time. It could be caused by the death of a loved one, maybe you’re caring for a sick family member or you’ve lost your job.

When you’re stressed, you may feel your heart and breathing rate go up, your muscles tighten, and blood pressure rise. This is the body’s ‘fight or flight’ or stress response. Once the threat or situation passes, these physical signs usually disappear. But if you’re constantly stressed, it can have an impact on your health.

How does long-term stress affect my health?

Long-term stress can affect the body in lots of different ways. If you're stressed most of the time, you may experience stress-related symptoms including:

• Headaches

• Muscle tension or pain

• Feeling overwhelmed

• Dizziness

• Difficulty falling asleep

• Eating too much or too little

• High blood pressure

• Feeling tired all of the time

• A lack of interest in everyday activities

• Feeling irritable

• Losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, talk to your GP. They can offer support, evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions.

Practical tips for dealing with stress

If stress is affecting your daily life, there are things you can try at home to help.

Exercise regularly

Great for your physical and mental health, exercise can help to clear your head, reduce stress and lift your mood. Even if you’re still self-isolating or working at home, our bodies and minds need exercise to keep us healthy during these challenging times. Don’t let anything get in the way of your workout. There are so many great online home exercise classes to try out. From yoga to aerobics to heart pumping dance classes – you’ll be able to find something that works for you. If that seems a little bit too much for you right now, go for a walk in the fresh air. That will still do you good.

Take note of your triggers

Look closely at what’s stressing you out. Finding ways to help you manage these triggers is important. If you're not sure what's causing your stress, keep a diary for a few weeks. Write down the times during your day where you feel stressed and what caused you to feel that way. Then go back over what you’ve written to spot your triggers. Even if you can't avoid these situations, being prepared can help you to cope better when you begin to feel stressed.

Take time out from the news

Reading the news can be stressful at the best of times, never mind in the middle of a pandemic. If you think news updates are causing a spike in your stress levels, try to limit what you watch and read. Think about how often you also scroll through social media. Take some time out of your day to schedule in a digital detox, to make sure you’re giving yourself a break from all the outside noise.

Review your routine

During times of great stress, having a good structure to your day can help you feel more organised and in control. The coronavirus has thrown a lot of our usual daily routines up in the air which can make it harder to cope with the stress that we’re all feeling. If you’re feeling like everything is getting a little too much, it’s time to shake things up. Maybe you need to improve your quality of sleep, find new recipes to help you get your five-a-day or explore how to just take some time out for you.

Speak up

Talking through things is one of the best ways to tackle stress. Chatting away to family and friends – even if that’s virtually – can be a great way to speak about how you’re feeling and get things off your chest. You may find that they're also having similar feelings and worries right now and talking them out together will be able to help you both. If you’d prefer to speak to a professional, talking therapies are effective, confidential treatments. A GP can refer you to a service offering talking therapies, also known as IAPT services, or you can refer yourself directly.


Paying attention to how you’re feeling and taking time to look after yourself can help with difficult emotions, worries and improve your wellbeing. Relaxation techniques from the NHS can also help deal with feelings of anxiety. It’s important to never suffer in silence if you’re feeling low.

Recovering from COVID-19

If you’ve had COVID-19 (coronavirus) you might be feeling the effects both physically and mentally. For most people coronavirus is a brief and mild illness, but in some cases the symptoms can last longer.

The term ‘long COVID’ refers to symptoms that someone who’s had coronavirus is struggling to shake off. These can include:

• Breathlessness

• Fatigue

• Pain

• Changes in your taste and/or smell

• Struggling to remember or concentrate on things

While all of the above can be typical of long COVID, you should always seek help from a healthcare professional if you feel overwhelmed by your symptoms.

As well as the physical side effects, you might (understandably) be feeling stressed or anxious if you’re recovering from coronavirus or experiencing long COVID.

Your recovery may be slow and steady, with a mix of good and bad days both physically and mentally. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself, not push yourself too hard and ask for help when you need it.

Supporting a friend or family member recovering from coronavirus

You might also be feeling stressed or anxious if you’ve got a friend or family member who’s recovering from coronavirus or experiencing long COVID. 

There are lots of ways you can help them in their recovery, and we’ve listed a few below:

• Talk, listen and offer support

• Give them time to answer and understand (it may take them longer to process things right now)

• Understand you might have to do things in a new way, or at slower pace, for a while

• Go for a walk together or encourage them to be active in other ways

• Find the balance between offering help and support, and allowing them their space and independence

The most important thing you can do, though, is to look after your own physical and mental health so you’re in the best possible position to support them.

Remember to speak to your GP if your stress levels are worrying you. There are also support groups available, including AnxietyUK and Mind, which provide help and advice on how to deal with your long-term stress.

Information correct at time of publication (12.01am 06/04/2022)