Pandemic situation keeps changing: How to handle the stress
To say people are stressed and anxious over the pandemic and everything that comes with it is an understatement.
In May, it seemed things were getting back to normal in New Jersey with vaccines available and many restrictions lifted. Now it seems we're reversing course with COVID-19 cases and the statewide rate of transmission rising. Plus, there's the possibility of a mask mandate coming our way again.
Frustrations are running high and this can be quite taxing on peoples' mental state of mind.
It's walking a fine line between staying aware of guidance guidance, making sure people have the updated information and staying connected with loved ones, said Dr. Megan Cox, clinical psychologist at Stress and Anxiety Services of New Jersey.
Avoid information overload
After doing informed research from trusted sources, don't get caught in information overload. Checking multiple news outlets multiple times a day is most likely not going to change the information disseminated.
When trying to move forward with the day, people should show themselves compassion and know that nobody is alone. Uncertainty fuels anxiety. Take deep breaths to calm the nervous system and feel more grounded in the day.
Remember you can get through this
Cox also said it's important for people to focus on their resiliency. There's a lot happening right now and it's a lot to handle. But at the same time, the ability to focus on "I've done this before" is imperative. Remember that in the past, a person's family, community and work family have pulled together to get through this before. So everyone will help each other get through this again.
Change can be reassuring
Every person has a different trigger for what's going to make them anxious regarding the pandemic, whether it's about hearing about germs, the rate of transmission, wondering whether returning to the office is an option or if classes will flip again to remote learning. The implication of the change in recommendations can certainly fuel anxiety and make a person anxious.
However, Cox said she hopes that people feel that by following the change in recommendations, they can trust they're being kept up-to-date. This will help them feel more safe and secure.
Make the time for self-care
To help people breathe a bit easier and cope with getting through this latest pandemic wrinkle, Cox said take a moment to pause and think "What does help me? What makes me feel good?" Then fit that into one's day. Carve out a few minutes to exercise or take a walk. For those who don't like exercise, maybe it's unwinding at the end of the day watching some television.
Learn about sensory grounding
There's also something called "sensory grounding." Cox said it's exactly what it sounds like. It's using the five senses to feel more grounded. It's as simple as taking a few minutes to pause and noticing something that the person can see, smell, hear, taste and touch.
"What's helpful about a tool like that is that it balances feeling like you have something to focus on other than the information in your mind. In that moment, you're focusing on the task at hand but it's a task that is calming and grounding for our nervous system," Cox said.
Confidence wards off anxiety
Always be kind to oneself. Cox said trust in the research each individual does and the decisions that person makes with loved ones. Always feel confident about those decisions despite what's going on around you. Things in this world are already divisive due to differing opinion.
"Be confident in the decisions you make and that will be most helpful in dealing with anxiety," she said.
Stress and Anxiety Services of New Jersey have offices in East Brunswick and Florham Park.