Post-pandemic blues. Burnout. FONO (fear of normal). You may have heard one or two of these phrases tossed around lately. With the pandemic easing up (knock on wood!), a new set of emotional challenges has only just begun. For many people, returning to a semblance of normalcy can be difficult — particularly during these times of uncertainty. So much so that the subject has been addressed on several global media outlets.
Stress associated with re-entry is the result of the last two years' traumatic events. On top of that, it can be hard to know exactly what to do, especially when information and guidelines are constantly changing. But while we figure out how to move forward, it's important to understand how common these feelings of anxiety, stress and even depression are. You're not alone, and you'll be happy to learn that plenty of research has gone into combating these negative mental health experiences. Let's take a look at some ways to press on with self-care.
Listen to your comfort levels
Sometimes the way forward is the path of least resistance. If you are not ready to change your precautionary habits, you don’t have to. As long as you're taking the proper precautions as detailed by the CDC, you have every right to go about your day as you please. Not all of us are ready to move on like nothing happened — and that's okay! On the other hand, if mandates have been lifted in your area and you are eager to get back in the game, don't let lingering feelings of fear stop you from moving forward mindfully.
Take care of yourself
- Exercise. Getting your body moving is one of the best ways to alleviate stress — and activities don't have to be anything special! Simply taking the time to go for a brisk walk, bike ride or engaging in a yoga session can make a world of difference. Daily exercise produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall mental and physical health.
- Sleep well. Your mind and body need enough rest to function properly. Several symptoms of mental health conditions can be triggered by getting too little sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, carve out a quiet and relaxing bedtime routine, listen to calming music, put your devices away and stick to a consistent schedule.
- Be mindful. During moments of stress, the idea of sitting down to meditate might seem silly — but we can assure you it has several benefits. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), meditation and mindfulness have been shown to remove accumulated stress, increase energy and have a positive effect on overall health. If meditation seems like a big first step, you can always start smaller with simple breathing exercises and setting aside your devices from time to time.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating well and staying hydrated can help to stabilize your mood and reduce stress. Consumption of highly processed foods and alcohol have been associated with higher stress levels. A diet with lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is good for a healthy mind and body.
- Get outside. According to Harvard Health, research suggests that mood disorders can be lifted by spending more time in nature. If you are looking for a quick way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, get outside! Something as simple as caring for your garden or walking around your local park can work wonders.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
If the steps you've taken aren't working and you're still experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, it may be time to turn to a mental health professional. Therapy is a great way to help people overcome the trauma linked to everything that's happened in recent years. And the times of feeling shame for needing help with mental health experiences are over.
In addition to seeking professional help, connecting with your friends and community can be a great way to reduce the burden of your experiences. Chances are, your loved ones are experiencing something similar, so it's could be a great time to lead as an example!
Our highly skilled, compassionate professionals at El Camino Health offer expert care for those experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. Get in touch today.
This article first appeared in the April 2022 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.