Remember when the morning alarm clock signaled the start of a new day? On awakening you may have been excited about an upcoming trip to see old friends at the beach or groaned because this day meant you had that dreaded meeting for a project not going well and then there was dental appointment in the afternoon. The morning would start with a workout at the gym or run in the park where you meet up with your training group. Sometimes the daily routines all felt like a “grind” but not so today. We are living in a world stalked by a nano-sized virus that is killing people.
So, What Now?
The list is long. We are living in a world of uncertainty with little clarity about timelines for improvement. Roughly seven million Americans are out of work and without paychecks. Our country now has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world, and forecasts are for this rampage to continue.
We are accustomed to feeling some control in our lives. Uncertainty has overtaken that sense of control and we are left with a comment like, “Why am I having a hard time finding some joy in my daily life?”
Readers, you are not alone!
Our posts adhere to evidence-based resources and this is not exception. There is mounting evidence (see NAMI Managing Stress) about depression increasing with the amount of time people are isolated from their usual daily lives. It is especially hard for those who have had depression in the past or another mental health need such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Social isolation, like quarantine, effects most people, especially for extended periods of time. Insomnia, irritability, emotional instability, fear, and panic are some of the behavior changes attributed to isolation. There is evidence that some people may even experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (see Life in the Pandemic). Health care professionals are particularly at risk when confronted with a surge of patients.
In the Impact of Isolation on Older People, the British Medical Journal examines the effect of social isolation and limitation of physical activity in older adults. Without mitigation strategies existing chronic disease is adversely affected. These researchers recommend a three-tiered approach:
- Dedicated TV and radio channels targeting this group with everything from dietary advice, suggestions for physical activity and training for the digital tools that can help them maintain contact with friends and family.
- Clinician guided recommendations for increase in activity.
- Community teams should provide outreach to those in isolation.
Further information is located here CDC Effects of Stress
Strategies for moving our mind from the quicksand of uncertainty are plentiful. However, they need to fit us, just like a pair of running shoes. So, experts recommend trying something new a few times to see if it “fits” you. Does it help you move your thinking into a more positive place?
The National Institutes of Mental Health has a list of practical suggestions including, “Take a break from the news.” Another recommendation is to seek trusted resources for information
This ancient Asian practice has been shown to bring physical and psychological benefits. In a time of high anxiety from the pandemic it also offers ways you may find relief and increase focused for things you must address. Check out Mayo Meditation to learn more. A full spectrum of complementary and integrated treatments can be found in the Mayo Clinic’s Integrated Medicine and Research Program.
Ironically, the social isolation may make it more difficult to be mindful because anxiety impacts our thinking. “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ as Oxford Professor Mark Williams explains in this helpful resource from the NHS site on mindfulness.
Taking care of you
Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety, fear, and “feeling down” as the pandemic continues to change our lives with quarantine and isolation. There is a rich resource on managing anxiety during this crisis in this link Tips for Anxiety
If you become concerned about your feelings and are not able to shift into a more positive sense of self call your clinic or primary care provider. There are many screening tools for depression and often poor sleep, constant tension and burst of anger are signals of overload.
- Has insomnia become a consistent problem?
- Are you feeling tense most of the time?
- Are you quick to anger?
This non-profit group has many helpful resources on their website. Mental Health America