I’m sick of the pandemic, you’re sick of it, we’re all sick of it! It’s hard not to feel burned out—we have had to maintain a state of vigilance and abide by strict restrictions for nearly a year since the pandemic began. We’re worried about what is going to happen and what we can do about it, so it’s no wonder that many of us feel anxious or depressed.
When we are under stress our autonomic nervous system moves in a hyper-arousal state that taxes our minds, bodies, and our sense of wellbeing. A study taken early in the spring looked at mental distress in more than 2,000 Americans and it found that 28% were showing signs of serious mental illness compared to 4% in a similar survey in 2018. Young adults between the ages of 18 to 44 exhibited the biggest change; they were ten times more likely to have mental health issues now than they had before the pandemic began.
Even if we have not developed mental health problems, the months of lockdown and restrictions that we are going through have brought emotional challenges that few of us have had to manage in the past, so what can we do to help ourselves cope? For one thing, we can shift our focus from worrying about the future to managing our expectations in the here and now. We don’t have to be perfect; our house can be a mess, we don’t know how to help our kids with distance learning, and we don’t always need to be cheerful.
One clue that we are becoming depressed is that we are eating more or using more alcohol or recreational drugs. Another clue is that our sleep has become disturbed—we can’t fall asleep, we can’t stay asleep, we are sleeping too much, or we are having nightmares. If we notice that we are abusing substances or are not getting an adequate amount of sleep, it may be time to seek out professional help before our anxiety or depression becomes even more difficult to manage.
If we think we want to try managing our feelings on our own, we can help ourselves and others by taking a more charitable view of ourselves and others and extending kindness to our family and friends. We need to prepare ourselves for the long haul since there is no end to the pandemic in sight and in the meantime, we need to take better care of ourselves to take better care of others.
One thing for certain—we are all in the same boat and each of us needs to pull our oar and do our best to take care of our own health as well as protect the health and safety of others.
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