Life took a turn for the worse in mid-March. Two months seems like two years. The Pandemic of 2020 has led to many strong emotions: fear, anxiety and worry, but it’s important to know that none of us are alone in this uncertain time.
Everyone copes with stress in different ways. When I’m in crisis, I turn to my friend Carole Simone, author and spiritual catalyst. She recently had this to say about the pandemic: “When tragic experiences happen around me, I let myself feel the feelings of loss or fear or despair, but then I move out of those emotions and into gratitude for what is here. As soon as I can I make my life a meditation of gratitude, I thank everything I can, and then I send the energy of love and compassion out into this hungry world. This is what I have taught my students and clients for a very long time and it seems to quiet their suffering.” The quality of being thankful has taken on new meaning. It’s more than just showing appreciation; it’s a time for reflection and preparing for changes that are coming our way.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Add a two-month homestay to the mix and the stress can morph into depression. According to the National Center for Health, suicide rates have surged 35% since 1999, making it a growing crisis with no end in sight. Now with the coronavirus, it’s left anxiety in our wake. “Suicide is about pain and there are many kinds of pain. All of them feel like a hot stove to the person who is experiencing them at the time of the crisis. The important thing is getting through the hot stove time.” Eve Meyer, a former executive director at San Francisco Suicide Prevention, communicated this to me the year I was honored at the agency’s first annual altruism fundraiser. A few years before, my husband’s oldest friend, Tom, took his own life. Tom was the best man in our wedding and at the time had a 9-month-old daughter. Having been trained as a nightline volunteer in the 90’s, I felt equipped to deal with mental health until it happened to a member of our family. You don’t think something like this can happen to you, nor do you think a global health crisis can cripple a world economy.
Stress Management 101
While it may seem impossible to manage stress, there are many steps that you can take to maintain emotional equilibrium.
- Stay informed. TV, print media and the internet are obvious connectors, but give yourself a break and binge your favorite show or read a book instead.
- Focus on what you can control. We have no control over the virus, but we can take steps to protect ourselves and others.
- Plan Ahead. Make plans for the future, even if it involves sheltering-in-place events.
- Sleep. Make time to recharge your batteries. We process stress while we sleep.
- Manage Your Day. A daily routine is good for overall health. Keep to a schedule.
- Be Kind To Yourself. Stay away from things (or people) that stress you out.
- Exercise. Fresh air is important even if you just walk around your neighborhood.
- Help Others Who Can’t Help Themselves. Deliver meals, make phone calls, or do anything that makes you and others feel better.
Just because we can’t see pain doesn’t mean it’s not there. Mental suffering is real and debilitating. Know the warning signs:
- Feeling Sad Or Depressed
- Lack Of Motivation
- Trouble Sleeping
- Worry About Your Health/ Loved Ones
- Lack Of Concentration
- Feeling Overwhelmed
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, reach out and get help. Call a friend, family member, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 800-273-8255.