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Dealing With All This Stress

Covid-19 Pandemic

It probably feels like the world has recently been turned upside down. You may suddenly find that all your previous plans have been thrown out the window and as a result, you now face unprecedented stress from all sides.

You may be facing loss of income or unemployment. You may be unsure about your housing situation, due to not being able to pay rent, or even stress over where your next meal is going to come from.

‘It probably feels like the world has recently been turned upside down’

How can you cope with the stress that is currently surrounding us and the prospect of even harder times ahead? How will you cope?

You Are Not Alone

The fact is that the world has been turned on its head in an unexpected way and many of the problems that were avoidable in the past, or that we were able to ignore, are now being thrown right in our faces. Unfortunately, things are going to get tougher, before they get better. For example, the UN are predicting up to half the working people in Africa will lose their jobs.

One thing you need to be aware of is that this Pandemic and the lockdown are impacting on absolutely everyone.  Some less than others, sure, but everyone is being affected in a negative way. If you are struggling to pay rent or provide for your family, please be aware that millions of other people are dealing with the exact same situation, you are not alone. This means that government is forced to get involved because everyone is being impacted. New laws are being prepared and new regulations are being added almost daily to try assist everyone make it through this situation. This will provide some relief.


Everyone experiences stress. It can actually be used by your body to help you deal with challenges and danger. It is a normal part of life, when in moderation.

However, when stress is prolonged, it goes from being ‘normal’ to ‘negative’. It can have very bad effects on your physical, emotional and mental health. What is important is to identify the type of stress you are facing and then act accordingly.

Right now you may be facing fear, fear of illness and death from this unseen virus. This is stressful, but should you let this stress force you to hide in your bed?

Danger in one form or another is permanently around us. If you cross the road then you face danger, so, what do you do in that situation? You take precautions: you look both ways and you don’t recklessly run into traffic.  This same strategy can be applied to the current Covid-19 Pandemic. Be aware of it but remember that if you take reasonable precautions, then you will reduce the risks and can get on with your life.

How to Reduce Your Stress Levels

Key to dealing with your stress is to clearly identify where it is coming from. It can actually help if you write down the causes of your stress on a piece of paper rather than have some vague feeling looming over you. Why not try to make such a list?

‘write down the causes of your stress on a piece of paper’

Once you have identified the origins of stress, then you can arrange them into groups of those you can do something about and those you cant. For example, can you remove Covid-19 from the world? No, you can, however, lower your personal risk of infection by taking precautions.

You might only be able to reduce some sources of stress, and may have to learn to change your mind-set about those that you cannot control. It is important to realize that while you can reduce your stress levels, it is unrealistic to think you could or should remove all stress from your life. You should, however, remove ongoing negative stress where possible.

What Can You Change Right Now?

You may also have to separate your list of stressors into what you are able to give attention right now and what you will have to deal with in the future. For example, you may be worried about this month’s rent and next month’s rent. It would be better to first focus on this month’s rent, and once that is dealt with, give attention to next month’s rent.

You may find that your situation changes so much during the next few weeks that some future problem you were worried about, never actually materializes. You may contact your landlord and explain your situation and ask for a reduction in rent and they offer you relief for two months, not just this month.

It is better to focus on things that you can reasonably work on now, than lie awake stressing for hours about things that may simply never happen. That is a waste of your emotional battery.

Changing Your Mindset

The way we think about things makes a huge difference. Your brain tells your body how to feel about things.

If asked to dig a hole in the ground on a hot summer day for no reason it will be hard and unrewarding.  However digging for a treasure in the same spot, on the same warm day will probably be much more enjoyable (if you find a treasure map let us know).

Debt is a classic example. Who actually has the problem? The person who spent all the money, and has reaped all the benefits of it, or the person who loaned them the money and might never get it back? Think about it.

During this tough time, try to think positively. Think the best of people, try to “cut them some slack” if they step on your toes, try to look for the positive in a tough situation. For example, the lockdown may have taught you new ways to reduce your office overheads. It may have moved you to become more technologically able, these are good things.

Don’t Focus Only On Yourself

If you only focused on your own problems, they will become bigger and bigger in your mind. If however, you help others with their difficulties, you may find that your own problems become smaller. Being aware of others problems and actively helping them will help keep our challenges in perspective.

The current pandemic is presenting all of us with chances to help others in ways big and small, physically, emotionally and in material ways. Try to find ways to spread the love, it will make you feel better. Who knows, maybe someone out there will help you too?

Get Organised

It takes a bit of effort, but being organized can seriously help reduce stress levels. Getting organized could mean several different things. Declutter your work and living areas. Keeping these clean and clutter free will contribute towards productivity. Making lists (as suggested at the start of this article) can help you be more productive.

‘When we make progress towards reaching a solution, our brain tells us it is ok to stress less about it’

Making lists also helps you track your progress that may otherwise have be hidden. When we make progress towards reaching a solution, our brain tells us it is ok to stress less about it. For example, when you are very hungry you feel better the moment you take the first bite, not when the food hits your stomach, or enters your blood stream minutes later. You feel better right away, because your brain tells you that the problem is solved.

Being more productive can help reduce stress levels since you have fewer obligations and pressure from those around you.

Balance Work and Relaxation

All work and no play makes Jack…you guessed it: Stressed!

At the same time, all play and no work makes Jack poor, which will also make Jack stressed. So, balance is necessary.

Lockdown has helped a lot of people realize the importance of playing with your kids and your pets, enjoying a cup of coffee, listening to music and getting some sunlight.  It has also perhaps helped them realize that other people need these things too.

Those who were glued to social media and news outlets at the start, quickly found themselves stressed out by too much negative news. It is valuable to unplug and avoid too much negativity. It is no wonder that one popular phenomenon during the lockdown in the USA is a short weekly YouTube show by John Krasinski (“Jim” from The Office) called Some Good News(SGN). Others have turned to the sheer outrageous escapism of The Tiger King. People need to balance work and their personal lives.

Good nutrition is also important, as is exercise. As those joggers, who were arrested during lockdown along the Sea Point Beachfront, told the police: exercise is also vital for stress relief. Government has acknowledged this and has relaxed restrictions from level 4 downwards.

If Your Stress is Overwhelming

If you feel trapped, and your stress is making it hard to get through the day, then you should talk to your family and friends. Social interaction is vital and will help you focus on others and not just your own stresses. Sharing your concerns is another good way to reduce stress. As the saying goes: A problem shared is a problem halved. Do not isolate yourself.

‘If those feelings persist then talk to a professional’

Dealing with negative stress is not something we are designed to do alone. If those feelings persist then talk to a professional. Call a help line such as Lifeline. They even have people you can chat to online on Skype with a click of a button:

If you are dealing with loss of income, then talk to your Debt Counsellor – they are also professionals. They will help you take advantage of insurance options, bank relief measures, government aid and UIF to help you cover your basic needs while you get back on your feet. You do have lots of options and getting advice will help you take advantage of them all.

Enjoy the Good Things You do Have

Being able to find small causes for joy throughout the day, will help you offset the pressures you feel around you. If you love coffee, then why not revel in it, really relish it? Make the most of that small caffeine boost. If you love McDonald’s, then maybe you need a cheeseburger. ‘Stop and smell the roses’ as they say.

‘If you can find half a dozen small ways to smile each day it will help to reduce your stress levels’

If you can find half a dozen small ways to smile each day it will help to reduce your stress levels. Find a silly game to play on your phone, step outside into the sun and appreciate the weather, snuggle in your bed for an extra minute or two and just enjoy being warm and comfortable each morning. Take a moment to tuck in your kids at night.


Dealing with The Stress

By taking a few simple practical steps, like making a list, you can reduce your stress levels and cope with the current unavoidable causes of stress. By identifying your stressors and taking acting to control or reduce the stress at that moment, you will find you are able to breathe. You will sleep better at night. By helping others, and still taking out some time for yourself you will be able to achieve an emotional balance that will increase your productivity and help you to deal with stress.

Remember, your body can use stress to boost your adrenaline production, to equip you to deal with danger. It can save your life. Perhaps the stress we all face right now is driving us towards a better, more balanced approach to the future? Let’s use the next few historically significant months to improve as communities, families and people.


This article first appeared in the April 2020 issue of Debtfree Magazine