Dealing With COVID-19 Anxiety One Year Later
In the days leading up to March 13, 2021, I became emotional and dreaded seeing that date on my calendar. I didn’t realize that, in my body and spirit, I knew that the one-year mark was coming up and I was feeling increasingly anxious and stressed by the idea of this “new normal” becoming “normal.” I don’t want it to be normal anymore.
We are all tired of feeling anxious about the coronavirus. We have learned to adapt to new routines such as masks, disinfecting our hands, disinfecting surfaces and keeping distance from people in a store or on the street. These new routines are not natural and they are taking a toll on our mental, emotional and physical health.
We have had to teach our children that being physically close to a person who is not in our safe “bubble” is not OK. Children of all ages are attending school with masks, not eating lunch together, not sitting side by side, not able to hug or whisper secrets in each other’s ears.
We have to really think about our meals, our household supplies and many of us are still stocking up on toilet paper and paper towels, “just in case.” How many of us are feeling like we are getting worn down by the continued monotony of our daily schedule, working from home, parenting from home, staying at home? Too many of us are feeling like this is “getting old” and “I’m over it.” The thoughts.
So many thoughts about this pandemic continue in our daily lives, such as:
- Where’s my mask?
- Did I wash my child’s mask? Does my child have a backup mask?
- Should we dine in or take out?
- Are the tables too close in that restaurant?
- Is that store too crowded? Should I come back another time?
- How much should I buy so that I don’t have to come out to the store again anytime soon?
- Did I sanitize my hands? Did my kids sanitize their hands?
- Is this sniffle/sore throat/fatigue due to COVID-19 or allergies?
- Should I send my kids to school or keep them at home?
- What if I get the virus? Will I make it?
- What if my kids, significant other or parents get the virus?
How many of us are feeling disconnected in many ways? Despite the incredible number of hours we are on video chats, computers and phones, many of us feel disconnected from the spontaneous conversations that we enjoyed in the workplace over lunch, coffee or just by the very mere fact that we were sitting in a space shared with other people. Many of us miss walking in and out of a workspace or office, and the mental and physical boundaries that it created for us between work and the other areas of our life such as family and home. Now our worlds have collided and the mental ability to separate running a meeting from running a load of laundry has diminished.
Video Call Fatigue
The fatigue is real. How many of us are exhausted at the end of a day where you have had multiple video chats, meetings or sessions? Although the video option has allowed many of us to maintain employment and contact with others, there are multiple variables that are causing us to feel unsatisfied and fatigued by interacting with others via video, such as constantly seeing yourself on a video call, missing body language cues, not being able to take mental and visual breaks during meetings, and the limited ability to move when engaged in a video meeting.
Sad and Grieving
Many of us are grieving the year of events and life that we have missed. We are sad for not being able to celebrate the holidays without an extensive amount of thought and planning about where, with whom and with how many people.
We are sad for the milestones that we missed such as graduations, vacations, birthday parties, weddings, school field trips, school plays and theater.
We are also sad for the fact that many of our family members, such as grandparents, are frightened and have isolated themselves for at least a year. We have lost valuable time with our family members, and FaceTime and phone calls are just not enough.
What Can I Do?
Now, more than ever, we must take note of our mental health and how we are responding to all of the restrictions imposed on our life because of COVID-19.
1. Use a journal to “mind dump” your thoughts each morning, each night or both.
Be honest with how you are feeling and what you need. If you need to speak to other people about how you are feeling, call a trusted friend or family member. If that isn’t enough and you need “your person” to speak to on a regular basis, make an appointment with a therapist and schedule appointments on a consistent basis.
2. Move. Just move.
It’s very easy to be the most sedentary we have ever been in our lives. It is easy to sit in front of a computer and move as little as possible. Get a FitBit, Apple Watch or a step-tracker and strive for a particular number of steps each day. Talk a walk, a jog, or find a YouTube workout that you like and move your body every day.
3. Leave your house.
I know there aren’t that many places for us to go right now, but get out of your house on a daily basis. Although going to a store is not my idea of “going out,” make it a point to leave your house each day to a store, or to walk to a friend’s house and speak to another human who is not living with you in your house.
4. See other people.
It’s up to you to figure out how comfortable you are to be around other people, where and how many, but maintain contact with other humans. Phone calls and FaceTime are great, but we are social creatures and we thrive off of being physically near other humans and engaging with them in a safe way.
We are all praying that the end of this pandemic is near. But, in the meantime, be aware of your emotional needs, move your body, leave your house, and see other people to maintain your mental health.