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Healthy Living: Transitioning

May 27, 2020

This blog is the fourth in an education series about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while following the Stay-at-Home order.  Healthy Living blogs will be released each Wednesday and will be made available at www.perrymemorial.org/healthyliving.

Coping with the emotions of COVID-19

COVID-19 is an unprecedentedly frightening and uncertain time for everyone. It seems like we have been dealing with this pandemic forever; it has been the longest 2 months of our lives.  Due to the vast impact COVID has had on our daily routine, even now we continue to encounter circumstances which we must figure out safe ways to handle.  This constant fear of being exposed to the virus and not being protected is very stressful.  This causes us to experience emotions more vividly, and this can lead to irritability, insomnia, depression, anxiety, or extra distress.  If all the coping skills in the world are not helping you relax, sleep, or coax yourself back to a neutral state of mind, reach out!  Visit www.perrymemorial.org/covidresources for a list of resources to receive help in managing these feelings.  I also want to remind you that we are all in this together, and we each need emotional support.  We are also feeling the void of our support network of friends and family.  Not being able to physically spend time with them has added more stressors and lacks hugs.  I am always up for a big hug and feel at a loss when I cannot give or receive them.

Long-term stress and anxiety have consequences

As the social distancing guidelines begin to lessen their impact, many new emotions surface.  Coming out of quarantine, you may experience:

  • Mixed emotions, including fear and relief after quarantine.
  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
  • Stress from the experience of monitoring yourself or being monitored by others for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have unfounded fears of contracting the disease from contact with you, even though you have been determined not to be contagious.
  • Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties during quarantine.
  • Sadness for all the events which have come and gone without the usual fanfare, such as graduation, prom, weddings and funerals.

Either way, change is required for this transitional period, which causes another level of emotional distress. I want to recommend we focus more on where we can go from here, rather than what we may have missed.  We’ve read or watched amazing stories of innovation and creativity during the pandemic: food pantrys developing drive-through shopping, community members volunteering to deliver groceries to those who are at higher risk, individuals supporting small businesses in new ways.  We can all pivot our problem-solving into creativity and innovation:

  • Caring hearts campaign in windows across the country
  • Sidewalk chalk drawings to send messages to neighbors
  • Drive-by birthday party with a honk of the horn and a parade
  • Surprise deliveries of groceries, flowers, and toilet paper (who would have thought it would be so exciting to receive toilet paper in a delivery)
  • Paying-it-Forward by buying the food for the car behind you in the fast food drive-thru

We are familiar with post-traumatic stress, but what’s less known is a very real concept called post-traumatic growth that occurs when we transform adversity into resilience and growth.  Communicating with positivity and hope to brighten the day for others always boosts your own spirits too.

Emotional health is connected to our physical health

Our emotional health impacts our physical health, causing us to feel like we are ill even when we are not. I would like to recommend some helpful tips to assist you in feeling your best during this transitional time:

  • Keep a schedule and eat well – see our blog on healthy eating. Even if you don’t feel like eating, making food choices gives you a sense of control over something when everything else seems out of control.
  • Engage with others via Zoom, Facetime, or basic conversations on your phone. Talking really is the best medicine for feelings of helplessness and traumatic stress. It helps you understand that whatever you are feeling is normal and you are not alone!
  • Take long walks or if you are not able, take time to simply stretch your muscles. It can be difficult when you’re exhausted.  Even if you just shake out your hands, something that clears your mind, can help take the edge off your stress for a little while.
  • Find moments to relax – whether you just close your eyes and listen to music or light a candle and look at the flame for a few minutes, that will help.
  • Narrow your attention – This just takes a few seconds. Focus on your feet, feel them rubbing against the floor. That literally grounds your emotions and will help clear our anxiety.
  • Resist the urge to try to numb yourself – avoid overusing alcohol or drugs.
  • Don’t make big life decisions. Disasters are amplifiers. People will break up or suddenly get married. Think twice before you make any big decisions.

Living Healthy is so important and I am hoping you are reminded, by reading my blog, that you are not alone and you have many resources and tips to improve your emotional health while transitioning in this new normal way of living.

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