Change can take a toll on a body and spirit. Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered more changes to our lives in a couple of months than most of us experience in a few years. School has changed for the kids, work has changed for the adults, and daily routines and interactions have changed for everyone.
And that's not even counting the uncertainty and anxieties about the COVID-19 coronavirus, a virus that is fatal to some, including people close to us.
Is it any surprise, then, that many of us are exhausted?
"Coping with COVID-19 during the past several weeks has forced all of us to make several major changes, any one of which would be enough to cause added stress to our lives," said Franciscan Health psychologist Summer Ibarra, PhD, ABPP-RP, HSPP. "Stress, in any form, can take not only an emotional but also physical toll on our bodies."
To make matters worse, today's stresses aren't going away quickly, so the stresses remain. Our body's response to stress, that classic "fight or flight" state of mind, is sustained much longer than is healthy.
"Adding to all of this is some level of grieving," said Ibarra. "Some of us have already lost loved ones to the coronavirus, but we have all lost routines, contact with community, a sense of normalcy. Fatigue is an expected effect of both sustained stress and can also accompany grief."
When life throws something unexpected our way, the first step in managing it is to acknowledge it - not hard to do today. But the next steps that move us away from feeling helpless about our situation don't have to feel daunting.
"You probably have your own personal practices to already reduce the stress and fatigue you’re experiencing," said Ibarra. "This is a time to be much more mindful and purposeful in our mental self-care."
Ideas For Managing Stress And Fatigue
- Establish new routines. For instance, shower and dress every morning even if you don't plan to leave the house.
- Spend time outdoors. Natural daylight can help reset your body's natural sleep patterns. Outdoor activities also can reduce stress and help you regain focus for the rest of the day's tasks.
- Maintain contact with friends and loved ones. Use technology to keep in touch. There's never been a better time for FaceTime.
- Keep regular mealtimes.
- Avoid overusing alcohol or other substances to cope. They may provide short-term relief but may undermine your efforts in managing stress and your sleep.
- Limit your exposure to news coverage and social media. Choose one or two reliable sources of news and limit your time spent reading or watching.
- Manage your personal and professional expectations. If you don't discover a new hobby, write that novel or create a new strategy for the company, that's fine. Dealing with a pandemic is enough of an accomplishment.
- Work on your sleep routine. Set a time for bed, and schedule time before to prepare and wind down. Get more tips for a good night's sleep.
For more information on managing your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, visit BeWellIndiana.com or http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29735, for resources and support. For personal help in creating coping strategies or managing other mental health issues, contact Franciscan Health Behavioral Health Services.
By Jennifer Hawke