How to deal with stress and anxiety during the pandemic
Written by: Nicole Fan
From: São Paulo
Edited by: Niko Darlington
Since last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed and impacted our lives in all possible ways, from positive and optimistic changes to the worst and most unfortunate events. You may have missed out on important experiences and opportunities such as graduations, weddings, or trips. You may have lost loved ones or jobs, or know people close to you that have been through tough moments. We have also all been somewhat deprived of our favorite hobbies and tired of following safety protocols that take extra time.
At first, we all imagined that the pandemic would last only a few months, so we made our best efforts to cope with it. However, now that we understand there’s no definitive end, that is causing widespread ‘pandemic fatigue", says Paul Nestadt, MD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Nestadt explains that pandemic fatigue is "the exhaustion you may be feeling after months of spending extra time and energy dealing with our new pandemic lifestyle and all the struggles it’s brought on." We are certainly facing difficult challenges throughout these unprecedented times, and we are all prone to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.
Learning to deal with these obstacles in a healthy way will make you and the people around you more resilient. Stress is natural and normal among human beings, yet, it could interfere with numerous aspects of your life, including changes in appetite, energy, and interests, as well as the worsening of health conditions and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. Sadly, feeling exhausted and stressed is a vicious and never-ending cycle. Once you are mentally and physically burned out, you tend to have less motivation, and because of this, you don't feel like doing anything to manage these negative feelings and you feel more and more fatigued.
It is completely understandable and normal to catch yourself feeling like this, however, we must be open to dealing with our emotions and learn to cope with them in a healthy way. The following list will reveal 5 tips on how to deal with stress, anxiety, and fatigue you might be experiencing during these crucial times.
Create and stick to a weekly schedule
This tip applies to everyone who often feels overwhelmed and lost in their duties. Now that we are fully online at school, we can easily lose track of important deadlines or Google Meet meetings. But if you stick to an organized schedule, you are automatically more likely to meet all your responsibilities as you are more aware of them. Besides that, when preparing your week beforehand you can separate and allocate time to balance all aspects of your life including study and school time, going to the gym, spending time with your family, and free time to relax and have a break! Of course, too many commitments can become overwhelming very quickly, but some structure in your schedule is helpful to make you feel in control and to give a sense of what's to come soon.
This may seem obvious, but when we are trapped in this endless cycle of exhaustion and stress we often forget to take time for ourselves and to refresh our energy. Focusing on self-care can accommodate a range of things, from sleeping sufficiently, to eating whole foods and less processed ingredients, to exercising your body and keeping in contact with friends and family. Everybody has different ways of resting and taking a step back, but it should not be ignored because it can, again, affect issues such as your mood and immunity. This does not mean you need to take a whole hour of your day to relax, you can practice self-care in only five minutes by applying a face mask or even by writing freely in your journal.
Take breaks from the news
It is good to always be informed of the most recent news happening around the world. However, constantly hearing, listening, and reading about sad or hopeless news can be upsetting and draining, especially regarding the pandemic. Consider limiting your screen time to just a couple of times per day and try disconnecting from your phone, TV, laptop, and radio.
Adjust expectations as needed
Many people started the pandemic with a mindset of productivity and high expectations of things they would accomplish. Since we were given extra time at home, we have added several things to our "to-do list" such as learning a new language, watching that TV show, or trying a new cookie recipe. But if they are causing too much stress, you shouldn't feel afraid to take things off the list or skip them. You should prioritize staying active, working, and continuing to pursue the hobbies that uplift and entertain you.
Seek help if and when you need it
If you feel like you are not feeling good even after reaching out to your relatives and close friends, you might need further professional help. Don't feel afraid to ask and seek help. As Dr. Nestadt says, "Pandemic fatigue is real, and the way it affects you will likely be unique because you have a specific set of challenges. It can feel like too much. And sometimes, just acknowledging that can help.” Several therapists are doing online appointments during these times, and you may need only a few sessions to feel better.