One of the more frequent questions I have been asked of late is how the pandemic has impacted my/our stress levels. At first I really did not think it was adding to my stress. But as time goes on and the future is looking somewhat bleak there are a million different thoughts that are coming at me at warp speeds adding to my anxieties.
I know. Following anything or anyone on social media these days provides a plethora of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. And due to some morbid curiosity I go back, hoping to find something I agree with to find salve for the soul. And I find something but before I settle down something else pops up that makes me shake in anger or fear or frustration, adding fuel to my anxieties.
I don’t have to remind you that our life prior to the pandemic could be stressful at times. And at times those, what we now call normal stressors, would overwhelm us. Covid has added another layer. A stressor that won’t go away.
So we have the ongoing debacle called an election down south, we have anti-maskers flaunting public health orders, there is a thought of not being able to celebrate Christmas in a normal way, there are rumours of vaccines, there are conspiracy theories on whether the pandemic is real or, in fact, brought on us by governments with ulterior motives (that one still baffles me), wondering what will happen to us if we get the virus, worried about families or friends that may be vulnerable, stories of Covid camps camouflaged as glorified concentration camps, personal care homes under siege, a drug that cures but is not being allowed to be used because big pharma wouldn’t make as much money and the list goes on. (I bet that’s the longest sentence you have ever seen)
Why does it seem inherent in many of us to become defensive and angry when presented with an opinion or an idea that we do not agree with? Invariably stress is the result of assumptions. As these assumptions take root we become defensive because we are presented with an unbearable idea, one that, whether we are aware of it or not, makes us unacceptable to ourselves. It feels like an attack on our values, our own wants, needs and fears.
I have this thing called a Fitbit. At first I thought it would be a great idea to track my exercise, check on my heartbeat, see how many calories I am burning and remind me EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR that I need to walk. It will vibrate and when I check, it tells me to “feed it”. It’s a constant reminder to do better. It seems that I never measure up so I turned off the notifications. I did not want to be reminded.
Perhaps that is what we need to do with the news, Facebook, Twitter and all other sources that are feeding us. Turn off the notifications. I know, if you don’t keep up you are uninformed. But let me suggest that when you do check every time you get a notification you are misinformed.
A key stress management tool is to recognize when something adds to our mental distress and be proactive of reducing our exposure to that. It simply means to turn off the notifications and cut out a lot of the noise. Be mindful, breath and rest assured that our world will move beyond the pandemic at its own time. In the meantime rise above the noise, be kind to yourself and stay safe. Now go give someone a virtual hug. Make it a good one.