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Thursday April 15th, 2021

The impact of stress, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic has triggered an array of emotional, physical, social and economic issues.
Last month we explored the the effects of Covid-19 on the heart. This month as it’s Stress Awareness Month, we’re exploring the impact of stress, a year into the Covid-19 pandemic.


What is stress?
Stress is the body’s physical reaction to real or perceived threat situations, which induces what is colloquially referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ reflex. Whilst it is commonly recognised that stress can take a mental and physical toll on the body, many studies now highlight the damaging effects that stress can have on the cardiovascular system.


Pre-pandemic stress
Prior to the pandemic, stress levels were at an all time high and rising annually. More than one in ten adolescents ages 12 to 17 had anxiety and/or depression. Research shows that our modern lifestyles are triggering stress at a disproportionate rate and for longer periods of time. The Mental Health Foundation reported that in 2018, 74% of UK adults felt so stressed at some point over the course of the year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.


Stress during the pandemic
In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic quickly became a serious global health concern. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, governments imposed a range of measures, including quarantines, social distancing and limits to civil liberties. These changes have generated a variety of psychological responses. Continuous restrictions limiting people from seeing friends and family, working from home being mentally strained from zoom fatigue and the threat of unemployment have all added to people’s ongoing stress.

A National Mental Health Crisis


“Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) adults say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life” 

American Psychological Association


New research finds adults in the United States are feeling their highest levels of stress since the pandemic began last year. One of Britain’s leading psychiatrists has warned that “all the dials are pointing the wrong way” on the nation’s mental health, as he raises concerns of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among patients and NHS staff in the aftermath of the pandemic.


“He warned that between a third and a half of people who had been ventilated in hospital as a result of Covid-19 experienced symptoms of PTSD, along with 20% of staff working in intensive care.”

The Guardian



How do we manage our stress?
It can feel overwhelming to tackle the source of stress, especially given that they stem from what is an unprecedented global event. However, you can learn to identify what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations.

Last week we asked our network how do you take care of yourself during stressful times?

72% of respondents voted physical exercise as their activity of choice, compared to 5% choosing meditation, 7% watching TV and 16% seeking creative outlets.


Some additional stress management activities include:

  • Healthy diet
  • Self-care
  • Finding a new hobby
  • Self-development
  • Logging off technology
  • Seeking professional counselling

Leveraging technology to reduce stress
Despite the argument that technology has added some stress to our lives, it has created an opportunity for advanced connectivity and stress management. Stress can impact health and increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore, monitoring stress is vital as ultimately it can save lives.

Wearable technology can provide continuous monitoring and/or spot checks of stress levels. Monitoring your stress over a period of time allows you to see patterns and gain valuable insights into your health and wellness. Through HeartKey®’s EKG technology, you can accurately monitor your stress levels over a period of time to help you understand and manage what your body is going through, enabling you to take action to reduce your overall stress.