We were so close to the end of the pandemic. A few months ago it felt as if the epidemic was nearly over with. Millions of Americans received their vaccination shots. States reopened for business. Restrictions were lifted.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the Delta variant appeared. Just as we started feeling good again, the rug was pulled out from under us. The mood swiftly shifted from optimism towards becoming serious, somber and afraid once again. The Washington Post referred to this as the “pandemic flux syndrome.”
New mandates have been ordered, such as showing proof of vaccination to get into restaurants, bars and gyms in New York and San Francisco. Companies, concerned about the new virus strain, pushed back their return-to-the-office plans. The mass media, to be generous, is spreading fear in a not-so-subtle push for vaccine hesitant people to get their shots.
It’s understandable if you’re starting to feel stressed, nervous and anxious again. The Delta variant messed with our minds and lives. In hindsight, it feels that the vaccinations, with the best of intentions, were over-hyped as a cure-all. It gave us all the hope to forge onwards. Learning that vaccinations don’t work as well as we believed they would, particularly with new strains, left us with a lingering distrust of our political and health professionals leadership. This loss of faith creates fear. We wonder if our elected and un-elected leaders know what they are doing or are they completely ill-equipped to lead and deal with this dangerous situation.
Dr. Jena Lee, Board-Certified Psychiatrist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in an interview for “LA Times Today,” said “I think it’s important to remember that the most taxing and stressful thing for all of us at any point in our lives is change, even good or bad, because it requires adjustment and flexibility.”
Dr. Lee added “It’s also unpredictability because both affect our sense of control. That’s really at the crux of what helps us feel safe and what helps us feel like our mental health is secure. And this constant back and forth, even the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel appearing and now fading; it’s disorienting for everyone.”
To compound stress, once again we divide into tribes and fight one another. One group chastises the unvaccinated and the other side says that they deserve their right to do with their body as they damn well please.
It feels that we will be stuck with never-ending new Covid-19 strains. “As humans, we thrive when we feel safe and secure, yet the ongoing and unpredictable nature of the pandemic has made inconsistency and a lack of safety the new, unhealthy normal,” says Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist. Manly added that the lack of clarity and increasing level of distrust of our leadership, breeds stress and anger.
Many people have started to feel exhausted, helpless, and unable to control our own lives. Each day seems to get increasingly harder. There’s unrelenting stress without any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel burned out. Prolonged unrelenting stress, aggravation and anxiety leads us to emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. You’ve probably noticed feelings of disillusionment, disappointment with bouts of depression.
Consider how you feel on a regular basis. Do you drag yourself to the room in your home or apartment where you work? Are you procrastinating or lack focus, no matter how hard you try? Is there a nagging feeling of impending doom? Has your spouse, partner, family, coworkers or friends pointed out that you seem unusually sullen, easily irritated and annoyed? Are you starting to feel disillusioned about your job, and future career growth potential?
If the answers are in the affirmative, it’s time to take action to turn things around before it gets worse. Here is what you can start doing. Don’t be afraid of being stigmatized. One of the positives coming out of the pandemic is that we can now freely talk about mental health issues. Share your feelings with your loved ones so they know what you are going through. The chances are high that they are in the same boat, but too uncomfortable to broach the topic.
Start practicing self-care. Take breaks during the day. Try to go outdoors and get some sunlight. Engage in hobbies that bring you pleasure. Ask for some mental health days off from work or changes in your schedule.
Allocate time to focus on your mental, physical and spiritual health. Go for a run. Practice yoga. Take a bike ride in the park. Hit the beach. Sign Up at a gym. Get back in touch with family and friends you haven’t seen or spoken with in a while. Reduce your time on social media. Avoid arguing with strangers online. Change what you can and accept the things that are beyond your control.
Don’t do anything rash, such as hastily quitting your job. Try practicing a little meditation to decompress and chill yourself out. Make sure you get enough—but not too much—sleep. Try to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, drugs and junk foods. Seek out professional help.
Reach out to your manager and human resources. Speak with your boss and tell them what’s going on. Collaborate on a plan to improve your work-life. It could include asking for new or different responsibilities or a move within the organization. Some supervisors will have already picked up on your burnout, others will be oblivious.
Make them aware of things that you feel would be beneficial if they are changed. Point out that the more productive and in-the-moment, and passionate you become about your job, it will also benefit your manager.
Now is a good time to start reinventing yourself or pivoting to a new job or career. Tough times create tough men and women. You’ll need to stay strong. Another point that was driven home during the outbreak is the stark reality that we only have a short time on this earth and it could all be over in an instant. Hopefully, the last nearly two years will help force us to focus on what really matters. It would be nice if we all can come through this crisis as more well-adjusted, happier people.