How to Start Addressing Pandemic-Related Stress
Pandemic stress is all too real. If you’re feeling more stressed, uncertain about the future, or more anxious than “normal,” you definitely aren’t alone.
And the hard truth is that it isn’t over. Maybe you’ve even got used to the constant stress. Or maybe you’re at the end of the line when it comes to your patience (I feel you!).
Some of us have had to adjust to working from home, not seeing our friends and family as much (or at all), or caring for and losing family members or friends. It’s tough! Things won’t ever be the same in our world ever again. And yes, all of this is absolutely trauma-inducing.
And then the question lingers… What will the post-pandemic world hold?
So, how can you begin coping with pandemic stress in healthy ways? How can we all start healing from this past year, even though it’s not quite over yet?
Tuning Into Your Pandemic Stress
The body is made to handle certain levels of stress.
In fact, stress is a mechanism that allows your body to survive threats in the short term. For instance, stress helps your body run away from a wild animal that may view you as its next tasty meal. Stress also helps your body avoid starvation when a food shortage or famine occurs.
While many of these situations are a thing of the past in the western world, the stress mechanism remains. It pops up when we’re worried about passing that upcoming exam. It arises when we have to face big life changes, like a world-altering pandemic.
And sometimes, this stress sticks around for longer than our bodies would like. Chronic stress may lead to various symptoms.
These pandemic stress symptoms may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Low energy
- Body aches and pains
- Stomach issues
- Declining mental and physical health
- Increasing use of alcohol or other substances
- Feeling fear, sadness, anger, worry, frustration, or numbness
Do any of these sound familiar?
If so, tune into those signs.
These are clear indicators that you need to make a change. While some changes we would like to make (such as going on vacation) aren’t entirely possible right now, you still control what you do day-to-day.
And yes, it’s easy to shut down and avoid it. It’s easy to isolate yourself and avoid turning to others for support and help. But this can make things much worse.
While we might not be able to see each other in person, technology has granted us the ability to communicate with each other regardless of sitting or standing in the same room. The internet has also thrown the doors wide open on endless amounts of information and self-help.
Right now is the time to lean into these resources and the people who care about you. Self-reflect. Talk to others and bond over your feelings—practice self-compassion. And truly feel the feelings. It’s okay to feel sad and defeated. It’s okay to take your time introducing self-care practices.
So, with that in mind, let’s examine how we can all find our pandemic stress relief.
Read this article next: How to Recognize Stress & Simple Ways to Deal With It
Finding Your Pandemic Stress Relief
What can you do? And most importantly, what can you do that’s within your limits?
Before we dive in, set a rule for yourself here. It’s simple: Don’t push yourself or beat yourself up. If you’re feeling maxed out, maybe it’s not the day to start a new gratitude or journaling routine. Maybe you need a warm bath and your bed. This is okay! Start anew tomorrow. Self-compassion is something that is so important right now.
When you are ready to improve how you feel and begin healing, start here:
1. Get Into a Routine
The first days of the pandemic had many of us celebrating working from home in our PJs. As long as we put in our hours, we were good. We could get up late, have a coffee, lounge, and maybe even throw on some Netflix in the background.
We were living the life we had longed for within those busy work weeks.
But… this got old pretty fast. We fell out of a routine. We felt less productive at work. The stress and reality of what was happening worldwide began to sink in.
How can you get out of this funk?
Build back up your routine. It sounds annoying and so unnecessary, but it can do wonders for your mental health.
Creating a new routine comes down to making a plan. What do you want to accomplish each morning or day? Schedule it out and set alarms where necessary. Then, it’s all about sticking with your plan.
2. Perform Deep Breathing Techniques
I’ve had moments where I’ve just sat and felt the panic seeping in, where I wondered if anything would ever go back to “normal,” and where I could feel the anxiety and stress rising.
Taking slow deep breaths has helped so much!
When you feel overwhelmed and stressed, take a moment for yourself; it doesn’t have to be long!
Sit and slowly take a deep breath in. Pause, then slowly exhale. Count to four for every inhale and exhale. And ensure you are taking deep belly breaths. Do this 5-10 times or until you feel the stress and anxiety dissipating.
3. Write Down Your Thoughts
It’s hard to organize our thoughts and feelings when we’re so stuck in our own heads. So, let it out.
Write it all down. Dump everything you’re feeling onto paper. Sometimes, this can provide an outlet for your emotions and allow you to process them and sort through them.
4. Cry it Out
This goes back to truly feeling your feelings. Not good comes from suppressing them. If you feel pent up and like you need release, allow yourself to cry. It’s okay. In fact, you might actually feel better afterward.
And it’s okay if you’re not even sure why you’re crying. Again, practice self-compassion. It’s a tough time right now. The world is full of negative and hurt energies. We are all taking that in. It’s okay to allow yourself to feel it too.
Crying is good for you, we promise: The Health Benefits of Crying
Everyone is feeling out of sorts right now. You’re not alone. And talking to someone who feels similar can help! It can help you feel more connected. It can help you avoid isolation. It can help you cope.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this with family or friends, there is always professional help. A therapist can offer a safe space and an unbiased perspective, allowing you to express your emotions and go through them.
Allow Yourself to Heal
Healing happens when you want it to happen. You have to let go of resistance and open your arms to change and growth. It’s hard, especially during times of crisis, because we are innately programmed to default to the familiar. The familiar feel comfortable and, thus, welcoming.
Yet, sometimes, it doesn’t serve us.
Step forward and make the changes you need to make in your daily life or your thought patterns. Begin healing from this turbulent year. You can, and you will. It hasn’t been easy, and getting over it won’t be easy either. But the hardest parts of life truly make us what we are.
We will all come out stronger because of this.
Related article: 10 Actionable Ways to Practice Self-Compassion Right Now