Volume No. 18 Issue No. 4 April 2021  

  Peak Vista Health Center
  Ask Your Provider
  Sherri Sharp, PhD

     Q: How can I cope with the stress of this pandemic?
   Life may seem to be chaos. Our routines have changed. Our activities have been put on hold. Life as we know it is different right now. And we do not know when it will return to normal. And what will this new normal look like?
   The uncertainty can lead to anxiety. Our brains give rise to intense, difficult emotions to make sense of the senseless situation we are in, which can lead to emotional fatigue. That is why we need to give ourselves frequent breaks to rest and recover from emotional fatigue — the same way we would give our body a rest after strenuous physical activity.
   The following are some strategies and resources to help manage your own emotional well-being during this stressful time: 
   Take breaks from the news and social media
   Our emotional state depends largely on what we focus on, both in our thoughts and conversations –- your brain will eat what you feed it. Mind and body are connected. So, while it is important to stay informed, information overload can lead to emotional smothering. Make it a habit to limit your news intake and step away. Be mindful of what information is being indirectly shared with your children. Remember to seek out content that is uplifting and joyful. Watch a comedy show, read a humorous book, listen to upbeat music or share funny memes on social media. Do not forget the positive impact of music!
   Intentionally employ coping strategies
   Put into practice strategies that have worked for you in the past during times of stress. These can include getting enough rest, eating meals (ideally, healthy food on a schedule), engaging in physical activity and staying in contact (with appropriate social distancing) with family members and friends. Give your disrupted daily habits a makeover to increase stability.
   Show self-compassion
   Be kind to yourself about how you are feeling. There will be days when you are super motivated to accomplish tasks and other days when you’ll be tired and not want to do anything. Both are OK and normal reactions to stress. Allow yourself to feel how you feel –- acknowledge it and move through it. Extend this same warmth and understanding to your family members. You are all experiencing this same upheaval but may be reacting differently. When it comes to your teen and their quarantine, remember to compromise.
   Perform regular check-ins with yourself
   Monitor yourself for symptoms of depression and stress such as sadness, irritability, difficulty sleeping and/or feelings of hopelessness. Be mindful of alcohol and marijuana consumption. We encourage openness to seeking professional support as needed during this time.
Sherri Sharp, PhD, is vice-president and a provider with Behavioral Health, Peak Vista Community Health Centers: 719-632-5700.
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