By: Lyle Fried, CAP, ICADC
The world today is different. COVID has created changes and challenges for all of us. “Normal” isn’t normal anymore. We’ve learned new phrases like “social distancing”, we’ve learned new ways of living – whoever thought we’d be rationing our toilet paper or wearing a mask in public (other than on Halloween)? And, now we’re learning new ways of working… distancing, a wave instead of a handshake, etc.
As the shutdowns drawdown and our state and city begin to open back up, what changes and challenges should we expect? How can we prepare ourselves for the new normal? What should we accept as normal responses and what should we pay closer attention to?
One important factor is how we take care of ourselves, not just physically, but mentally as well. One of the leading factors in physical health is proper mental health. Stress-related issues were common before the current pandemic but have become even more prevalent now. According to a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association (APA) some of the most common sources of stress were
- Concerns for the future of our nation (63%)
- Money (62%)
- Work (61%)
- Political climate (57%)
According to the CDC, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, stimulants, or other drugs
For many, these have only been exacerbated by the current crisis, and others have been added to the list. But stress is a normal physiological and psychological reaction. So, some stress can be healthy, while other stress is not. There are healthy things you can do to reduce your stress levels…
- Talk about it
- Breathing exercises
- Make a plan
- Eat well and get plenty of rest
- Prayer and meditation
Unaddressed stress is what leads to unhealthy reactions in your body. Stress can lead to or exacerbate anxiety which is your internal reaction to the external stressors.
There are many forms of anxiety and understanding what you may be experiencing can help you determine if professional interventions may be needed. It is important to know what it looks like and what to do about it if you experience anxiety.
Returning to work can take some adjustments after the extended social isolation we’ve had. For many, the lack of interaction has created or worsened depression. Getting into a regular routine can help with that. Also, simply getting more movement in your day can help ease some of the symptoms of depression.
We’re in This Together
And as always, know you’re not alone. We are all in this together and you don’t need to do it alone. If you’re experiencing difficulties making the adjustments or dealing with the added pressures and changes of the crisis that we’re enduring, reach out. Talk to someone. If you want to speak to a professional to see if you may need additional help, don’t hesitate. These conditions and symptoms are common. Everyone experiences some level of stress, with about 20% of the population having an anxiety disorder that may need treatment. And according to the CDC, about 80% of us have experienced depression with 1 in 10 needing professional interventions. And it’s easier than ever to get help. In today’s world of specialized treatment and telemedicine, the options are vast and more accessible than ever.