The past 18-19 months of living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been an experience none of us will forget. We find ourselves in a different phase of “What happens next?“. There are new guidelines and changes to which we must quickly adapt. Our ability to move about is less restrictive and we have the benefit of new vaccines in our arsenal. Our readiness to come out of social isolation is being tested. Many are returning to in-person work or a new job altogether. Graduations have taken place and schools are preparing for onsite education. We are returning to our in-person worship service along with continuing online services. This reopening looks different in various parts of the country.
The excitement and anticipation this brings is accompanied by normal fears and anxieties. How will my co-workers be? Will I be safe? Will my family be OK? Is it safe to re-connect with loved ones in care facilities or at home? Can they provide that long awaited hug? These questions and many others may sound familiar to you. We must accept that these questions are not unusual and come with “our new normal”.
Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life. The National Institute of Mental Health states that stress can appear differently depending on our previous ability to cope with fear and anxiety, how we handle change of daily routine and our general sense of uncertainty. There may be fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones. Other symptoms of stress may include change in eating or sleeping patterns; worsening of a chronic health condition and increase in use of tobacco, alcohol or other substances.
The NIMH states that there are ”Five Things You Should Know About Stress”
1. Stress affects everyone.
2. Not all stress is bad.
3. Long-term stress can be harmful to your health.
4. There are many ways to handle stress.
5. If you are overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.
Healthy ways of coping with stress:
1. Take breaks from watching and reading news stories.
2. Take care of your body: take deep breaths, stretch, walk and exercise regularly.
3. Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals.
4. Get plenty of sleep.
5. Avoid using excessive alcohol, tobacco and other substances.
6. Continue with routine health care- such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, and physicals as recommended by your health care professional.
7. Get vaccinated for COVID-19.
8. Make time to unwind. Try to connect with others. Talk with people about your concerns and how you are feeling.
9. Connect with your community or faith-based organization.
10. While social distancing measures are in place, try to connect to others online, through social media or by phone or email.
These are only a few suggestions- there are many more which can be found in the resources listed below. Remember there is help if you need it. Prospect’s Mental Health Ministry will be providing many articles of interest in the coming months to help you along the way.
National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center 866-615-6464 www.nimh.nih.gov
National Suicide Prevention Hotline; 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
Prospect’s website also lists local, free or low cost, online and in person programs willing to help.
Contributed by Cleta J. McLeod, LCSW