COVID-19 – One Year Later

Posted March 5, 2021

 

  • One year into the pandemic, people are learning to manage their physical, mental, and emotional needs in a very different world.
  • Taking steps to address the reality of the new normal is critical to your health.
  • If you need help managing through this challenging time, MHS is always available.

Even as new testing methods and treatments for COVID-19 roll out, the impact on people’s physical, mental, and emotional health continues. Anxiety, depression, and panic are common reactions to living through the first year of the pandemic. During times of crisis, a certain level of stress is healthy. It makes people more cautious and self-observant. During the COVID-19 crisis, anxiety has encouraged people to follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks, and wash their hands more often. Stress even makes people more creative in finding ways to stay emotionally connected while staying physically apart. However, anxiety also has a dark side if not managed healthily. If left unchecked, stress can drive us to panic and feelings of social isolation. Here are some tips for managing personal wellness as we emerge from this unprecedented time.

Turn Off the Screens

The news, social media, and the various ways we receive information can leave us feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. The media emphasizes the negative, exaggerating panic levels. The reality is that most people are faring the pandemic well and finding ways to help each other through it. One of the most positive things you can do for your mental health is to unplug for a few hours a day, if not completely. The idea of media overexposure is more than just theory. Research after other large-scale traumatic events finds those symptoms can last for years. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Try not to watch pandemic media coverage more than twice per day, and avoid it entirely for the hours just before you go to bed.
  • For as many hours as possible each day, focus on as many routine tasks as possible, leaving your phone and your television turned off. Humans find comfort in routines, and they help people to remain calm. Maintaining a set bedtime and adhering to an exercise schedule are good examples.
  • If you do go online, use the technology to do something positive that’s not pandemic-related. Join an online book club or take a virtual class on something you’ve always wanted to learn.

Focus On What You Can Control

Life, in general, feels out of control amid the pandemic. Finding your way through the “new normal” means adjusting your perceptions of what you can change and what you can’t. Some people find that creating a written list of things they can control, such as personal hygiene, social distancing, and handwashing, is helpful. Learning to release things that you can’t control, such as other people’s behavior, is key to preserving your mental health. Do something that helps others when you can. For example, you might adopt a pet from a local shelter if you are in a position to take on such a long-term commitment. You could also give blood, as long as you are healthy enough to do so.

Stay Connected to Each Other

Resist the urge to isolate yourself from others. Find ways to communicate safely, sharing your feelings with others who understand the experience. Listening to others reduces feelings of social isolation and reminds us that there are still people in the world who care for us. Call someone you love on the phone so you can hear each other’s voices. Send a quick text to someone who is weathering the pandemic alone. Start an email conversation with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. With so many activities canceled, you may find yourself with time to reconnect or try something new.

Take Care of Your Physical Health

Eating healthy, nutritious food and getting regular exercise not only helps your body, but it also helps improve mood. The Mediterranean Diet, for example, is correlated with an improved ability to manage stress. Maintaining these good habits can be especially difficult in times of high pressure, though, as our bodies long for comfort foods typically high in sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates. Unfortunately, research correlates those foods with depression. One strategy is to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables or the frozen variety instead of chips, snack cakes, and other highly-processed foods.

Be Realistic About Working From Home

Working from home is part of the new normal, and technology makes it possible to do most tasks from your home office. However, as much as we might try, it’s impossible to replicate some aspects of working onsite. For example, if your home working environment includes small children, productivity is bound to suffer. Give yourself grace and accept that distractions are part of your workday now. Here are some ideas on how to rework your daily goals to reflect those new expectations.

Designate your work area within your home to keep work and personal matters separate. Try to work in the same spot each day to help establish a routine.
Set work hours similar to the ones you have when you work onsite. Start and end your workday at defined times so that work doesn’t bleed over into your personal and family time.
Use noise-canceling headphones or other technologies to control background noise when you are trying to work. If your work area is too quiet, consider music or a white noise app.
Contact your coworkers and supervisors occasionally throughout the day to reduce feelings of isolation. Video platforms can be helpful because seeing faces helps us feel more connected.

Finding Help

Part of staying connected to others means showing patience and kindness to yourself and each other. Everyone is struggling with some aspect of this strange new world. While disturbing and difficult, this shared experience can unite us against our common enemy if we let it. MHS offers a full range of therapies for adults and adolescents. If you need help dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, contact us online or call (952) 835-2002 today.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock/ lzf