Some practical tips on coping with the pandemic stress and exhaustion
October 30, 2020
By: Arash Javanbakht, M.D., Wayne Health Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us regardless of politics, economics, religion, age or nationality. This virus is a good reminder that humanity is vulnerable, and that we are all in this together.
This pandemic incorporates the major elements of any stressful situation:
- Transition: overnight we had to drastically change our ways of living: how we work, how we enjoy life, social life, and our relationships with our significant others and children and parents
- Lack of control: all we can do to stay safe and keep others safe is to be physically distanced and wear a face cover
- Uncertainty: there is a lot we still do not know about how the virus works, for how long we are in this, and the long-term socioeconomic consequences of this crisis
All the above has made this a very stressful and mentally, emotionally and even physically exhausting time. And if that was not bad enough, most of us are also very stressed by the current political atmosphere, regardless of what side of the aisle we are on. Media (including social media) do not help. We are constantly exposed to negative, scary and sad news.
Here are some tips on how to reduce the impact of this tough time on ourselves and our loved ones as much as possible:
- Accept the fact that this is a very tough time, maybe the hardest time of our whole life. Just accepting that some of our stress, exhaustion and anxiety is a normal human reaction helps us to be more understanding and empathic to our own feelings and those of others.
- Get your facts from medical experts, and websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand local health authorities, not from rumors or random social media posts. Knowing legitimate ways of protecting yourself and your loved ones provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety.
- Do not get obsessed with the news, and do not keep checking for hours and hours. Make sure to give yourself hours-long breaks from the news. Don’t worry — the network anchors will always be there with scary news.
- Give yourself a chance to be distracted from bad news. Watch movies or TV series, documentaries (animals are awesome), or comedies.
- Remember all the activities you always wanted to do but did not have time? This does not have to always be errands or housework. It could, and should, include fun activities and hobbies.
- Keep your routines. Go to bed and leave bed at the same times you did before, and eat your normal meals. Now you can spend more time cooking and eating healthy.
- If you are a social person, stay connected via phone, video chat or other technology. Physical isolation should not lead to social isolation. Connect, especially now that you have free time.
- Stay physically active. Regular exercise, especially moderate cardio, not only improves your physical health and immune system, but also helps with depression and anxiety. Trainers are offering free, online, home exercise training these day. You can also use exercise as a means of bonding with your loved ones.
- Meditate and use mindfulness techniques.