Unprecedented Times

The word unprecedented means never done before, novel, no precedent. With the coming of 2020, a year like no other, this word has become common. Twenty-twenty has been unprecedented for many reasons, most of all, the coronavirus pandemic. The summer of 2020 brought continued shootings of black people in this nation and the millions of voices taking to the streets demanding to be heard and recognized. The political battle that has ensued was extremely fear-based, exhausting, and threatening to us all. Yes, this has been a year like no other.

Most are mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally exhausted. Most of my patients have been doing a wonderful job maintaining their peace of mind during this time despite how overwhelming it feels. The holiday season brings its own stressors unique and unrelated to this unusual year, such as missing loved ones who have passed, wanting to fulfill our children’s needs and desires, or trying to maintain our “normal” family traditions.

I am encouraging folks to understand that this is a different kind of year, so we need to spend the holiday season differently and modify our plans and expectations. In order to manage our stress, peace, and happiness, our focus must stay fixated on the internal. Rather than focusing on producing gifts, we should focus on connecting with one another and helping those who are less fortunate or struggling during this time.

Groups at higher risk for stress

We all deal with stress in our own ways, but it is important to know that some individuals are at higher risk for feeling increased stress, depression, anxiety than their neighbors, friends, and family. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and having to socially distance and stay-at-home orders. Those who might become more stressed during this crisis include:

Those at high-risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19 (if contracted), such as older adults and those with chronic health conditions.
Children and teens.
Healthcare workers, such as doctors, nurses, first responders, and other staff members.
People with mental health conditions, including those with substance use disorders.
Recognizing and coping with stress in a positive, healthy way can help you remain calm. And recognizing the stress of others and lending support can make everyone stronger.

Here are a few tips on how to manage stress.

1. Modify your media consumption.

If you are a news junkie, you likely hear or see the same news line over and over. If you find that you worry about what you see on the television or social media, feel worse after a status update, feel sick, ill, depressed, or anxious after watching the news, then disconnect. Take a break by decreasing your media consumption. Constantly tuning into the news increases stress and often draws attention to things that you have little control over.

2. Get outside

Get back to the basics. Take a break from your home or work area, have a change of scenery, and breathe the fresh air. Mother Nature is therapeutic for our minds and our spirits. Hearing the birds chirp, seeing the leaves change, watching the dogs run, and kids play lets us know that life is still the same. There are good things in the world. Getting out of our heads and into our bodies is good for us.

3. Control What You Can

Let us control what we can in our lives; instead of being focused on what we can’t control. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, this can allow us to take the time to accomplish some personal goals and invest in ourselves. Whether it is household projects at home like cleaning, reorganizing, repairing, or renovating, get it started, and you will feel better. This is the time to invest time into new endeavors, like starting a new business, or writing a book. Think of your time being protected right now. Take back control and use it for what you like.

4. Get Creative
Using your hands and your creative brain can be a great way to relieve stress. It helps you focus on the present and create something new. It is a great way to keep yourself and the kids busy. It is fun! Whether or not you feel you have artistic abilities, you may surprise yourself and find a new passion or at the very least laugh. In the end, you may feel fulfilled by what you have done.

5. Seek Help When Needed
If your stress is causing you to feel more anxious or depressed, you do not have to try to solve the situation alone. Ask for professional help. There is no shame and no need to be fearful of getting the support that you need. It is easier now than ever to receive treatment without ever leaving your home, thanks to virtual TeleTherapy and TeleMedicine appointments. Our mental health experts at Impact Behavioral Health and medical providers at Health and Wellness Integrated Health Centers are available during this time.

Thank you. Dr. Mignon