A stressed woman

Stress relief: this simple exercise could help you to take control of your stress levels

Posted by for Life

Struggling to keep your stress levels under control while you’re working from home? The solution could lie in asking yourself this one question.

There’s no denying that the coronavirus lockdown has amplified our pre-existing stress levels. We’re not just talking about all the extra worries we now have to manage as a result of the pandemic; the act of working from home itself – with all the communication mix-ups, technological blunders and lack of motivating factors – has been a stressful experience.

And we’re not the only ones who feel like this. Research from LinkedIn in partnership with The Mental Health Foundation suggests that 56% of UK workers are feeling more anxious and stressed since they’ve been working from home, with 31% saying they’ve experienced difficulty sleeping.

Amid the backdrop of a global pandemic, troubles with communication, the pressures of juggling homeschooling with the 9-5 or simply feeling the need to “prove” you’re working have led to many of us edging towards burnout.

As Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan and author of Cut Your Stress previously explained to Stylist: “You might feel that burnout is less likely to happen during lockdown, but stress can result from lots of Covid-19 related factors such as of uncertainty, financial worries, fear of catching the virus, frustration at being stuck indoors and even boredom.”

With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that we stay on top of our stress levels and make sure we’re not doing things which put us at greater risk of developing burnout. 

“When we find ourselves engulfed by stress it is often a build-up of overwhelm coupled with accumulated past experiences of pain and trauma, so finding a way to reduce stress and to tap into your inner resilience is important – especially in the moments when you feel like you are ready to combust,” explains Alister Gray, executive leadership consultant, mindset expert and founder of Mindful Talent.

In this way, stress causes our mind to run at a million miles an hour – to destress, Gray suggests, we need to regain control and spend time recognising where we’re placing our attention.

“One of the best ways to control our stress levels is to observe our own thoughts and recognise where we are placing our focus and attention,” he explains.

A woman on her laptop
When we're feeling stressed, one of the best things we can do is take a step back and observe our thoughts.

“In coaching, we use a form of questioning called ‘thinking questions’, a great way to develop meta-cognition or easier understood as the ability to ‘think about thinking’. By asking thinking questions of ourselves we are able to become the observer to our thoughts rather than getting caught up in them. As the observer, we can then choose to place our focus and attention on a different subject and to change our thinking process.”

To practice the ‘thinking questions’ method, all you need to do is start by asking yourself one question: “I wonder what thought I will think next?”

According to Gray, asking yourself this question over and over will help you to get one step ahead of your stress and think more clearly about it. Other questions he recommends using include: “Are my thoughts helping me or harming me?”, “Are my thoughts serving me in the moment?”, “How long have I been thinking this way?” , “What would happen if I was to think differently right now?” , “Is my stress real or is it my thoughts that are creating the stress?”

“When we are stressed, we can use the stress as a reminder to ‘think about our thinking’ and access our ability to respond to the stress versus reacting to it,” he adds. “Being able to choose where we place our focus and attention becomes a great strategy in realising the resilience within.”

Coping with stress during lockdown

If you’re dealing with feelings of stress and worry during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to understand that this is a completely normal response to the current situation. However, if you’re looking for a way to alleviate some of those feelings, here’s three more articles that might help.

For more information on stress, including what it is and how to cope, you can check out the NHS Every Mind Matters website or visit Mind.

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty/Unsplash

Share this article

Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.