The Coronavirus pandemic has been traumatizing and 2020 has been an exhausting year. As a result, many have been living much of the time in "survival mode." Anxiety, fear, and trauma interrupt our ability to readily access our frontal cortex. This is the part of our brain that controls our cognitive skills including problem solving, memory, and emotional expression. It serves as the brain's "dispatch center." When functioning in survival mode, it is harder to focus, prioritize, and effectively manage conflict. This can impact an individual's productivity. People handle the resulting emotional stress differently depending upon their circumstances, available coping resources, and histories.
Sona Matwin PhD, Consulting Clinical Psychologist, Work/Life Connections-EAP, suggests to "Practice daily self-care. During this time of heightened stress, this is not optional. You can find up to 10 minutes out of your day to so something that helps you recharge and restore. Be a role model for others by sharing what you do. We all need some extra motivation, especially now."
Here are some ways to help rebuild emotional reserves:
- Turn off the news and choose to snooze: Take a periodic vacation from negative input and get an extra hour of sleep! Both can do wonders.
- Stick to your routines: Maintain or create healthy routines (like regular bed and wake times). This will improve your overall sense of well-being. Healthy sleep, diet, and regular hydration lead to better stress management.
- Give yourself compassion: All of us are learning how to live during a pandemic. Taking the view of a beginner can allow for more latitude and forgiveness. Compassion can be a powerful tool and stimulates parts of the brain that can enhance attention, as well as increase openness to new things.
- Get up and get outside: Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins, reduce stress, benefit your overall health, and help improve sleep. Getting your daily dose of sunshine benefits both your mood and cognitive health. While 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is recommended, you can break those down into more manageable intervals if time is the obstacle. Even one minute is better than none!
- Access current information: Having accurate information helps us make decisions. Make sure you understand how to limit your risks and how to maximize your well-being. With vaccines on the horizon, 2021 looks to be a hopeful year!
- Connect with others: Scientific evidence strongly suggests that social connections are essential to feeling satisfied with your life. Biologically, social ties stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone linked with the reduction of fear and anxiety, in part, by limiting the cortisol response to stress. Use the phone, text, or email to practice connection while social distancing!
- One breath at a time: Try to focus on the now if you find yourself stressed or feeling overwhelmed! Instead of tackling one day at a time, try one hour, one minute, or even one breath. Being present will help us shift out of the survival mode, improve concentration, and improve our moods.
If you find yourself becoming clinically depressed or struggling with how to cope, contact Work/Life Connections-EAP to set up a confidential appointment with one of our EAP Counselors by calling 615-936-1327.