COVID-19 vaccines may be getting distributed now, but all those months of stress and uncertainty can take a toll on your emotional health. To cope with the pandemic-induced stressors of loss, social-distancing, shutdowns, and grief here are some steps you can take to safeguard your well-being.
Don't bottle up your feelings about the pandemic. It’s important to recognize the effects it's had on you to make things better. Are you losing sleep and feeling exhausted? Have you been more impatient and irritable? Are things upsetting you more lately? Are you less engaged with people and activities? Do you find it harder to focus on tasks? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, chances are you're suffering from pandemic fatigue. Your reactions to the health crisis in 2020 are perfectly normal and it's okay to permit yourself to feel sad, tired, and anxious about what's happening.
You may feel like you have no control over what's happening with COVID-19, but you do have control over how you’ll respond to the pandemic. If you've been feeling anxiety and fatigue and that's translated to harmful behaviors like not wearing a mask, not washing hands, or failing to social distance, remember that being diligent in helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus gives you a measure of control. Doing everything you can to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your community safe is empowering. It's hopeful.
You can reduce stress and anxiety, simply by breathing. Practice breathing exercises regularly to help you slow down and manage your anxiety on a mental and physical level. Try these exercises from Healthline.com or medicalnewstoday.com.
For many of us, there is a pull to constantly tune in to our social media feeds to see stories and updates about the pandemic. Doing this too much can heighten all your feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. To combat this, limit your time on social media, take a few days' break or stay off it completely.
The pandemic has a draining effect both mentally and physically for many of us, so it's important to deliberately schedule breaks and activities that can help you feel better. Recharging your energy reserves can be as simple as taking a walk, jogging, reading a good book, making a fancy meal, or jumping on Zoom to chat with an old friend. Making time to ensure your mental and physical well-being by doing things you enjoy will go a long way toward helping you cope with the stressors of the pandemic. To ensure you don't forget to recharge, set reminders to take breaks, or do something you enjoy during the day.
If you are having a difficult time coping with the pandemic, it helps to talk to others who might be experiencing similar feelings and concerns. By chatting with those who also struggle with the global effects of the coronavirus, you'll get the validation and support you need. Or, if you've been more irritable lately and that's affected your relationships with people you love, try reaching out and letting them know how you’ve been feeling so they can understand why. Getting that off your chest can be cathartic and it will help safeguard your relationships in difficult times. Opening up may even help bring you closer to those you confide in.