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Neill Richardson from TALKWORKS talks about managing stress from a CBT perspective

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in Mental health, News, Recovery and wellbeing on 4th November, 2020

This week marks International Stress Awareness Week and in these COVID-19 times, it is more important than ever to highlight the challenges the pandemic is adding to individuals, as well as organisations. 
The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) says: "Almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020). Feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their well-being was being affected, with 84.9% stating this." Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain. Office for National Statistics,  June 2020.
As we prepare to juggle the complexities of the next four weeks of lockdown it is important that we learn how to manage our stress and take steps to minimise its negative effects. Neill Richardson, Clinical Team Lead at TALKWORKS, shares his thoughts on stress from a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) viewpoint. Neill says:
"How ironic that lockdown 2.0 was announced in International Stress Awareness week! Stress is an ever-present factor in our lives. It is a response to situations that we appraise as threats. We each have a unique set of strengths, attributes and supports. We equally have unique pressures and demands. This unique set of strengths and demands means we do not all react in a predictable way. Two people can experience the pressures of work and lockdown in vastly different ways. It can be helpful to think of stress as scales we have to balance if we want to keep stress manageable.
"If your capacity and support exceed your workload and the duration, then you will feel the stress is manageable. With regular ups and down that life throws at us we find our scales tipping slightly one way and then back. However, when we get a new addition to our workload the balance can feel like it is going to tip.
"When we are faced with stress that affects our mood and anxiety levels, we will activate behavioural coping strategies. Some strategies feel helpful in the short term, for example, a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day, but this can prove less helpful in the longer term."
Unhelpful coping strategies include:
  • Avoidance
  • Procrastination
  • Disorganisation
  • Withdrawal
  • Using unhelpful substances
Other strategies may feel less attractive in the short term, for example, a walk outside at the end of a stressful day, but are more beneficial in the long term.
Helpful coping strategies include:
  • Diet, exercise, sleep!
  • Moderate your alcohol as much as possible
  • Set aside time to plan, organise and write lists
  • Be compassionate to yourself and others
  • Be active in your health and coping. Get a wellbeing/exercise buddy
  • Know when to say no, seek a fair mix and distribution of work
  • Set up a lockdown project
  • Consider your work life balance
TALKWORKS will be running a series of free Sleep and Wellbeing workshops to help those with sleeping difficulties and to help manage stress. To book a place on a session listed below, call the team on 0300 555 3344.
  • Tuesday 10th November - 11:00
  • Monday 30th November - 18:00
  • Monday 14th December - 14:00
  • Monday 4th January - 18:00
  • Wednesday 20th January - 18:00
  • Friday 5th February - 10:00
  • Thursday 18th February - 18:00
  • Monday 1st March - 18:00
  • Wednesday 17th March - 12:00
  • Wednesday 31st March - 18:00
Further information can be found on the TALKWORKS website.
TALKWORKS also has a self-help guide on Stress with further self-help guides available on their website.