Identifying and mitigating negative stress during Covid-19

Christina Horden explains why it has never been so important to check in on each other

22 May 2020

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, a campaign led by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. This year has a specific focus on kindness.

Christina Horden is a group people manager at Willmott Dixon, she is also one of our trained mental health first aiders and an advocate of the group's All safe minds mental health awareness campaign, supporting colleagues and supply chain partners across the business. Here Christina explains why throughout Covid-19, looking out for each has never been so important, as well as providing some guidance on identifying the signs of negative stress, and tips for improving overall wellbeing.

The Coronavirus and mental health

Christina explains “during these unprecedented times, many of us are having to adapt to difficult or unfamiliar circumstances, such as being confined to our homes, away from our loved ones and restricted from social contact. Our minds are being challenged to ‘cope’ more than they ever have in recent times and so in finding the balance, it is normal to experience ups and downs in our mental health.

As our colleagues, friends and family adapt to more isolated living and working procedures, it is crucial that we lookout for each other and make time to talk. Across Willmott Dixon, throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, we have been raising awareness of the signs of negative stress, allowing us all to identify the symptoms within ourselves and our wider social network. Being aware of the symptoms allows us to support accordingly, We are pleased to share this information with the wider community.”

Spot the signs of negative stress

Here are some ways you can spot the signs that you or someone else may be experiencing negative stress.



Cognitive Ability


Sleep disturbance

Slow cognitive performance


Tiredness and lethargy

Easily distracted

Irritability and aggression


Forgetful or bad memory

Low self-esteem and confidence

Muscle tension or backache

Impaired verbal reasoning

Low mood and motivation

Changes in weight

Difficulty concentrating

Feelings of insecurity

Frequent colds and infections

Tips for everyday

If you or someone you know is showing these signs, here are a few everyday actions you can take to help improve your overall wellbeing.

Connect with friends, family and colleagues

Avoid social isolation and stay in touch others regularly via phone, text, social media, video conferencing etc. Helping others cope with their stress can also be beneficial for your mental health too.


Sticking to a routine throughout the day helps you feel more in control.

Keep active

Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. Here are some free 10 minute work outs from Public Health England or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.

Keep relaxed

This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. For useful resources see Every Mind Matters and NHS’ mindfulness page.

Keep stimulated

Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you. Furthermore the Open University offers over 1000 free courses if you wish to learn a new skill.

Avoid getting too much news

Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting, so limit your news to reliable sources and be conscious of when enough is enough.

If you are working, talk to your manager

Be open and honest about how COVID-19 is affecting you and your work. We are all human and the chances are your manager will be able to relate to how you are feeling. Discuss and agree what help and support you need to protect your wellbeing and avoid burnout. It’s ok to ask for some breathing space in these testing times.