Are we there yet?

Written by: Erin McCall, M.S., LPC-Associate

To say “it’s been a year” is an understatement. Just a year ago, we
braced ourselves for what we thought was a temporary adjustment.
Little did we know, it was more than temporary and lately it’s been a
way of life. We have become so normalized with safety precautions
and social distancing one wonders if we’ll ever know how to be
around other people again.

We have been forced to adjust to a new way of life, carefully
planning and ensuring we are practicing safe behavior not only for
ourselves but for others. But being “safe” is subjective because of the
lack of consistency and communication from various institutions, we
are unsure what we actually believe. Depending on our
circumstances, situations and tolerance, we begin to rationalize our
behaviors to suit our needs.

With still so many unknowns, our anxiety continues to persist due to
our minds being filled with questions without concrete answers. What
are the effects of the vaccine? How long will it last? Are they
effective towards new variants? How many variants are we still yet to
expect?

As the country begins to re-open, we still have many “unknowns”
ahead of us. We want to believe this is the beginning of the end,
especially with the weather turning and summer right around the
corner. We want to start planning vacations, looking ahead to a
more ‘normal’ future and begin resuming our lives as they were. But
as the pandemic continues to drag on, we are all experiencing
‘pandemic fatigue’ and just want to know “Are we there yet?”

There is no right or wrong way to feel and having mixed emotions
that roller-coaster constantly are completely valid. The following can
be signs and symptoms that we experience when we are under a lot
of stress created by our continued anxiety, as well as measures we
can take to help alleviate some of these issues.

Stress can cause the following:

• Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
• Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
• Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
• Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
• Worsening of chronic health problems
• Worsening of mental health conditions
• Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances

Healthy ways to cope with stress:

Take a break from technology- Since most of us have been
isolated, our screen time has increased, binging on shows and
scrolling through social media. It is important to stay informed
but constantly being exposed to the news can be upsetting.
Create time limits for yourself and stick to them.


Take care of your body- Whether it be exercise, having a
healthy diet, limiting the amount of alcohol or getting plenty of sleep and water, your body will respond positively if you
engage in a healthy lifestyle.


Take a mental break- When we think of “triggers”, we often think
of negative ones such as anger or sadness. But it’s also
important to know our “happiness triggers” as well. These may
include something you enjoy doing such as going for a walk,
immersing yourself in nature or participating in something
creative.


Connect with others- Whether it be with family, friends or
community based activities, connecting with others gives us a
sense of belonging, validating our feelings that we are not
alone. Often times, giving back to those in need helps us put
things in perspective and help us practice gratitude.

We are all experiencing collective trauma and the effects of this
pandemic will leave life-long scars. It’s important that we practice
mindfulness and find joy and happiness in those small moments we
experience every day.

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