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Managing Stress And Anxiety During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Managing Stress And Anxiety During The COVID-19 Pandemic

By Susan Williams

The COVID-19 pandemic is something that our generation has never experienced before. As a result of this crisis is causing many people to feel extremely stressed and anxious.

In this Learning Bites session, we are joined by Dr. Sean Hayes, a Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of Cohaesio and we discuss why this situation is so different, how and why people may be feeling and what we can do to help better manage and cope during this crisis.

Here is our discussion;

These are some of the highlights of our conversation;

** Please note; this information is intended for strictly informational purposes only. You should always consult your healthcare practitioner for advice regarding your personal situation. **

Why the COVID-19 pandemic so different and what can people do to help reduce their stress and anxiety?

  • This is likely the first time for the vast majority to ever experience something called collective trauma. This is a shared catastrophic event that undermines all of the normal structures and functions of society.┬áThe closest of these type of experiences we may have seen was 9/11 but this was not global.
  • This event is something that everyone is hit by but also takes away what normally gives us a sense of control and safety in our society. We have lost structure, rigidity, routine, our patterns, our institutions that we depend on – for example our health and our healthcare systems are at risk as they are at risk of being overwhelmed.
  • As a result, all the things that give us a sense of united protection, safety and a trust that we will be taken care of are undermined all at once.
  • Unlike some other collective traumas, there is no end sight to this. There’s no sense as to how long, how deep or how impactful this experience will be. With other events, there is usually some type of deadline (when it will be over and getting back) but none of us have this feeling with this.
  • As humans, we deal very poorly with uncertainty (referred to as the tyranny of uncertainty). When something is bad and we know what’s coming we can plan for that. When we don’t know what is coming and having no idea what to do is worse for us in terms of an emotional response.

Why people are hoarding and panic shopping?

  • People are doing this as a result of a their very basic needs and their insecurities around this. People are responding to their belief that the normal societal functions cannot be trusted right now and they go into almost of primal level of self and family protection. This is tapping right down to the basics of food, safety and protection.
  • Many feel driven to panic mode to prepare and protect themselves and many don’t feel they can count on the institutions to protect them.

At times like this we want to be with people for support but yet we can’t. We have to distance from each other. What we can do?

  • This crisis has taken away all of our usual, healthy, “go to” responses. Most times when we’re stressed, we stick to routine, we engage socially (often at work), we go out – with all these things taken away plus the fact we can’t engage with family makes this even more difficult.
  • To respond to this we are having to use new and different ways to connect. For example, the use of social media to connect and engage with family and friends are being used in ways before never thought possible. Grandparents are using Facetime, playing games online with each – in some ways this is even better then before as there is now actually time to do this.
  • Also, what is also striking is that we often see the best of people in this situation. For example, the caremongering group in Canada who are making sure that the most vulnerable get what they need.
  • We are finding ways to connect – to tell each other that we are there and we understand. We are also starting to pay more attention to each other (even if it is from six feet apart). This added energy will hopefully be a replacement for our old methods of interaction.

Social Media – when it’s good and when it’s not

  • Social media is good to use as a means to interact with friends and family. However, when it’s done in isolation (for example when playing games completely by yourself) or not safely used for getting our information this can be dangerous.
  • We need to really be careful of the news that we read and believe. We need to ensure that we can trust the sources of our content and make sure that it’s coming from a reputable and trusted source.
  • Dr. Hayes recommends to do a check in with a resource that you trust and validated and then leave it for the rest of the day. Then go back to what you need to do for your family and yourself in planning your day.
  • In this situation, social media should be used not to get away from people but to do things with people you know.

Use this as an opportunity to take time to think

  • In our regular lives we can be so overscheduled that we just don’t have the opportunity to think. This unique situation is a presenting us the chance to slow down, spend time with people and just feel comfortable doing nothing and think.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.