It’s been months since I have written my last article. I have notes all over my office with topics to write about. Most were half started and got tucked away until I could get to them again. It’s not easy these days trying to manage a business, home needs, and personal care, which basically equates to a new level of stress we’re all experiencing: pandemic stress.
We are through almost 4-months of lockdown pandemic. Virginia is slowly opening in phases. We’re scheduled for Phase III as of July 1st. Personally, I feel an undercurrent of concern and worry. This is not unusual anymore. Most people do not feel a sense of safety or security. Many people are looking forward to finally get outside to do some “normal” summer activities.
Yet, I feel I’ve been going 100mph since March. My business has picked up especially since I specialize in Postpartum Care as a Nutrition & Wellness consultant. My days and weeks blur together. I feel like in one day I have accomplished a week’s worth of work.
As I sit down to write this article, I realize that this is the only thing I have to do today. When was the last time I had a day like this?
The exhaustion and fatigue slowly sets in with the calming in my schedule. It’s amazing how much we can push through when we are in survival mode. The elevation in our fight or flight response is not noticeable until our schedules calm down. Then it feels like lights out.
Pandemic Survival Mode
Most of us have a basic understanding of our stress response. Our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) elevates our heart rate, slows our metabolism, restricts blood flow to some major muscles so that we can quickly react to the situations around us. It is meant to be a short burst of energy.
Yet, today in the midst of a pandemic a lot of us are purely in survival mode. I have been on my own as a single parent for the past 4-months as my husband went off to Louisiana for work. His job is considered essential. I’ve been balancing:
- Daycare/Raising a 1-year-old
- Home care (2x harder than it was 6-months ago)
- Personal care (pretty much non-existent)
I have developed a set schedule since the beginning of April to help manage my time without completely melting down. Many people call it a routine but a routine is made up of habits you do every day that bring you peace of mind.
A schedule is a list of things you do in a day to accomplish tasks that don’t necessarily bring you peace of mind in the sense of enjoyment. The accomplishment of these tasks brings you peace of mind in the fact that they are done until next time.
When we have a reprieve in our survival mode our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) kicks in to calm our bodies, relax us, and bring all systems back to normal. If our SNS has been working over-time, we feel extremely fatigued as we calm down. If we have not had a moment of reprieve from our SNS, our body starts to suffer from unexplained:
- body aches
- muscle pains
- stomach aches
- weakened immune system
I often wonder when I hear the phrase “new normal” are we taking into consideration the stress on our body’s. If this is part of a new normal, how do we manage our stress so that we can help our clients manage their stress?
Coping With Pandemic Fatigue
The usual list of recommendations to manage stress are journal, meditate, eat healthy, exercise, and so on. Right, this is the list I always recommend under “normal” stressful lifestyles. This is a very different kind of stress.
This is Pandemic Stress. This is not a pandemic that is expected to go away any time soon. That means, neither will the stress.
Here is a list of things I have been doing since March that I have found helpful and great recommendations to manage stress.
- Establish Routines: Remember what I said above about routines vs. schedules. Find or reacclimate yourself to routines that give you joy. These routines may not look like they did 6-months ago. However, a part of them will remain the same.
- Get Outside: This may not be easy for those of you in an urban area. If you have access to the outdoors, rooftop, garden, patio; with limited exposure to people, take advantage of the fresh air and sun. The fresh air and vitamin D will help lower stress and help you to focus.
- Stay Contacted With Loved Ones & Friends: I know we are all very Zoomed out. Keep in touch with those closest to you with some form of technology. This helps you feel less alone. I have spent more time back home in Philadelphia the past 4-months than I have the past 9-years I’ve lived in Virginia. I’ve found my community, again. If I didn’t have them, I would feel extremely alone & isolated.
- Regular Mealtime Routine: Food brings us joy. What we eat is tied to how we feel. However, making sure you eat something around the same time morning, noon, and night helps you keep track of where you are in the day.
- Avoid Over Consuming Alcohol: This can become an unhealthy coping mechanism. It only raises your stress and anxiety. This leads to a further diminished ability to have a restful night’s sleep.
- Limit News & Social Media: Limit how much news and social media you are tapping into. There is so much negativity out there. It is good to be aware of what is going on in the world. It’s better not to let it consume you. Too much news and social media can lead to frustration, depression, and an overall feeling of hopelessness.
- Set Manageable Personal & Professional Expectations: We all have seen our friends and colleagues accomplishing so much during the quarantine. I’ve sat with many friends and colleagues who were just happy to find that time to back off of their work schedules to focus on themselves and their families. Set expectations that are in alignment with who you are and ignore what everyone else is doing.
- Keep A Sleep Routine: I don’t know about you but I love sleep. It makes me happy. Set a bedtime and a time before bed to wind down from the day. This has been my lifesaver. After my son is in bed I make a cup of tea, get a book, and stretch out in bed for an hour before going to sleep.
If we are going to adjust to this “new normal”, then we need to consider adjusting to the management of the stress and fatigue that comes with it.
Of course, you want to journal, meditate, eat healthy during this time but you may want to consider adding a few new items to your stress management list to help you get through the “new normal”. This is the transitional time to whatever that new normal will actually look like. Let’s be honest, this is not normal nor can living this way be sustained.
As you reflect on yourself: physically, emotionally, and professionally. Take into consideration what little things you can add to your routine that bring you joy and help you relax while you get ready for your daily schedule.