If you feel like you’ve hit a pandemic wall, you’re not alone. It’s safe to assume that most of the global population has experienced major stresses in 2020 and the first part of 2021. Those of us who live in Texas recently went through an unprecedented winter storm that left many without power and water for days. That came on top of a year where life was turned upside down due to the coronavirus pandemic and the public health measures put in place to prevent further spread of the virus. Some of the habits that many of us have developed during the past year, such as doomscrolling, haven’t helped. In some form or fashion, we’re all living with coronavirus fatigue. Here are seven tips to help you survive and thrive in 2021, from the mental health experts at Medical City Green Oaks hospital.
Hitting a pandemic wall … fight or flight
It’s important to start with a fundamental fact: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It’s essential to be kind to yourself during this very stressful time. It might be helpful to understand exactly what is happening in your body when you encounter a stressor. A stressor is any event that threatens us and requires our bodies to adapt to maintain a state of balance. This triggers a release of the hormone called cortisol, which then gives us the energy we need to respond to the threat. When multiple stressors are stacked up over time, we end up with a large amount of both cortisol and adrenaline pulsing through our bodies. The emotional reaction is one of anxiety or fear and is referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Our bodies are fighting for survival even if our brains know that our survival is not being threatened.
Now, put all of that into perspective as you think about the previous year's events. You have been experiencing one stressful event after another, right? You’ve probably had more cortisol released by your adrenal cortex than ever before, and it’s been happening for about a year now. The amount of trauma stored in your body is enormous. And don’t forget that, although they may show it in different ways, children and teens are also feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Seven tips to get over, around and through the pandemic wall
So, what can you do to restore a sense of balance? Amissa Sharrock, Licensed Professional Counselor and WorkReturns Program therapist at the Medical City Green Oaks clinic, has some suggestions. First of all, give yourself some grace if you’ve noticed that you are snappier with others than you would be normally. Be gentle with yourself and channel that energy into some things that can help you reduce that “stressed out” feeling. Here are a few ideas to get you started and help you stay mentally healthy during the coronavirus crisis.
- Work some of that cortisol and adrenaline (energy) out of your body. Take a walk or run outside when the weather permits and enjoy the wonder of nature. When you can’t do that, opt for your favorite indoor exercise.
- Practice mindful meditation to help calm your body and mind. Moving meditations, such as yoga or Tai Chi, can accomplish the same thing if sitting still is a challenge. Journaling about all of the things you are grateful for today can also be helpful.
- Create something. Many people who don’t normally cook have started cooking since they haven’t been going out to eat at restaurants and have found joy in developing a new creative skill! Painting, knitting, and gardening are other relaxing, creative hobbies.
- Limit the amount of news you watch. Instead, try reading a good book. Remember that novel you’ve been hearing people talk about? Maybe it’s time to pick that up!
- Stay connected. Keep in touch with your loved ones even if you can’t see them in person yet. Give your sister a call, schedule a Zoom meeting with your friends, write a letter to your cousin.
- Get enough sleep. Set regular hours for sleep and be sure you allow for an adequate amount daily. Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is optimal for most healthy adults.
- Fuel a good mood. Be sure you are eating a healthy diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats.
Try following these tips for a week and see if you don’t notice a difference in the way you feel. However, if none of these things help and you still feel stressed, please remember that you are not alone. Consider making an appointment to talk with a professional counselor so that you can get some assistance in moving through this very challenging time. You are worth it.
If someone (including yourself) is displaying suicidal thoughts or actions, immediately call 911 or go to your nearest ER.
Medical City Healthcare provides comprehensive mental health services in North Texas. At Medical City Healthcare, we're dedicated to the care and improvement of human life. So, we hope you'll Take Care!
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