Coping with the Stress of COVID19
The advent of a worldwide pandemic was certainly not something that the majority of us had thought about, and certainly not prepared for.
One could also say from a mental health perspective, this was so unprecedented in its magnitude and affect that, really how could we have prepared for this?
The majority of us are dealing with worry due to the great uncertainty around how life would look in the coming months. This has continued to cause stress and fear.
We want our life back, but what would it really look like in a few weeks, months, or years?
This article addresses some of the effects of a long-term health crisis, and shares some tips for coping with the stress of COVID19.
Impact of the Pandemic
We are all trying to manage this to the best of our ability, and in our own different ways. Those of us who are anxiety-prone, would find our anxiety levels at significantly increased levels. Folks with an extroverted personality-type would find the isolation and staying home for long periods of time, especially challenging. Some are rebelling against the loss of freedom, and the loss of life as we knew it.
Job loss, leading to loss of income, has caused not just worry, but anger and frustrations, leading to arguments with loved ones in our bubble. Intense loneliness has led to an over dependence on various social media platforms, in a bid to connect with others.
Worry has led to poor sleeping habits, including late nights gaming or mindlessly browsing social media, and oversleeping during the day. Some of us have turned to unhealthy ways of coping. There can be a general and distinct lack of motivation.
There is also ongoing fear about the health of elderly relatives, and frustrations and anger in our inability to help them or do anything for them. Some of us have experienced the loss of a loved one, without the opportunity to say goodbye. There is a shared feeling of helplessness.
It is a very tough situation to be in. However, there are some strategies for coping with the stress of COVID19.
Be Kind to Each Other
Quoting Dr Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer, we need to “be kind, be calm and be safe”.
As this is a first for most of us, we are at a loss as to what or how we are to manage the overwhelming uncertainty and worry. We are coping one day at a time and coming up with new or different solutions as we go along. We would encourage you to show compassion, kindness, and grace to yourselves. Do what is within you to do. Let go of what is inconsequential.
If you are feeling exhausted from constant worry and stress, take a break. Forgive yourself for not having done your to-do list for the day. Be kind – to yourself. Spend time with loved ones. Cherish the moments you have with each other. No one is exempted from the pandemic; we are all in this together.
Ask yourself, when this pandemic is over, how would I have changed? Did this trying time bring out the best or the worst in me?
Re-evaluate Your Expectations
We all have our expectations of where our life was supposed to be headed, where our careers could have gone, etc. Suddenly most of those plans have changed or been postponed. Weddings have been put on hold, promotions are in limbo, travel is just not safe.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep our dreams alive. The future may look different than previously dreamt, but it is still very much ours to realize. This is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, our tolerance for uncertainty, our ability to rise above.
Ask yourself, when things are somewhat “normal” again, would I be satisfied with who I have become?
Keep Your Connections Alive
We human beings are social creatures by nature.
Yes, even an extreme introvert needs human connection.
While we all have to physically distance to keep ourselves and others safe, we do not have to social distance.
There are still many ways to connect while physically apart.
Some would be new, but there are many others that we have already adopted.
Technology in particular has an important role to play.
Social media, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, for example, can be great; however, these are passive in that there is little live interaction. Spending too much time on such apps is not healthy. There’s a host of other activities such as FaceTime, WhatsApp where we could interact with others. We could also pick up the phone, organize a Zoom birthday with friends, or have a conversation at least 6 feet apart on a walk or at the park.
The world has adapted, the way we do things has changed, and we must change accordingly. Keeping up our connections with others, however, hasn’t changed – it has always been an important part of healthy living.
Research has shown that those who are better connected and have strong social support, feel better able to tackle problems and difficult situations. Other research has shown that loneliness can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, infectious disease, and cancer. Seniors are especially vulnerable to loneliness while we are all trying to cope by physically distancing. All good reasons to pick up the phone and speak to your grandparents, other family members, friends or neighbours. You may well be the social or emotional connection they need during this time.
Keep A Regular Schedule
Keeping a regular schedule has the effect of helping us maintain some sense of certainty and control over our lives, in addition to being productive. It also reminds us of our work day, our responsibilities, and our goals.
Granted that many things have changed, as many of us now work from home. A regular routine would help us maintain focus and a sense of purpose. We may feel tempted to lie down for a moment, from exhaustion borne of worry and fear. We may feel tempted to open the fridge for the fifth time in the hour, as eating is our coping mechanism. Having a routine and setting goals for every day, would help keep us focused on work.
Weekly social activities can still be maintained. We could follow a trainer from the local gym through live feed or on YouTube. We could also attend church service, again via live feed, or on YouTube.
Reach Out for Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope on your own, you can talk to mental health professionals like ourselves. As counsellors and as fellow travellers on this wild ride, we understand what you are going through. We will provide a space for you that is safe, non-judgmental, non-critical, and certainly, non-blaming.
We have a few tips and coping strategies to share, some of which would be personal and designed especially for you. We are trained in different therapies including the widely recognised evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), amongst a host of other modalities.
The key thing to remember is that you are not alone in this. There is help available, and yes, we can get through this together.
Feel Better Today.
Call us for a free 15-minute consultation at 604-484-2737.
Masi, C.M., Chen, H., Hawkley, L.C., and Cacioppo, J.T. (2011). A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Personality and Social Psychology Review 15(3), 219-266.