Managing the Stressors Caused by the Coronavirus

As we enter into the seventh month of the pandemic, we are all experiencing the effects of accumulative stress on ourselves and those around us.  The stress is particularly felt in the workplace. The CDC has identified many common stressors experienced by employers and employees as a result of the pandemic.  Any one of these stressors is significant on its own, but having two or more of these stressors can significantly increase the intensity of the stress.  COVID related stressors identified by the CDC include:

  • Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work
  • Taking care of personal and family needs while working
  • Managing a different workload
  • Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform your job
  • Feeling that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline
  • Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment
  • Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
  • Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule*

Increased stress in the workplace can put the company, employers and employees in a state of crisis. A crisis is defined as any situation in which the demands being exerted exceed the existing resources and coping mechanisms.  These new demands force us to grow and to develop new resources and skills.  However, if the crisis isn't managed, the stress can cause us to weaken.  If we are to grow rather than deteriorate under increased stress, we must be proactive.

Actively working to solve our problems is a great way to reduce our stress.  Sometimes we tolerate situations that could be solved, on our own, or with outside help.  Some problems aren't solvable, and fighting against the problem is not only futile, it increases our stress.  We can lower our stress by letting go of the struggle against the things we cannot change.

If a problem can't be solved, we can reduce our stress by changing the way we think about the problem.  It helps to think of unsolvable problems as we would the rain.  We may not be able to stop the rain, but we can manage the inconvenience of the rain by using an umbrella.  Or, we could change the way we think about the rain, possibly embracing it.  If we can't embrace the rain, we can learn to tolerate the rain.  It serves no purpose to rail against the rain and to do so would only increase our discomfort with the rain.

Many of our external stresses can be reduced by applying the rain analogy.  Solve the problem if you can, work around it when you can't, embrace it if possible, or learn to tolerate it if all else fails.  Despite the struggles and problems, we face, solvable or unsolvable, we can manage our stress levels by focusing our attention on what we do have control over; our own reactions to what happens around us.

 

Jenny DeReis, MC Psych, Walmsley, EFAP

*www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019