Stress has become a part of life, but over the past several months it has become more prevalent. Stress levels have become amplified for many people related to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether these are related to job stability, childcare or school, health and family, or feelings of loneliness. Rates of depression have tripled since the pandemic began, and people are feeling more isolated than ever.
The summer months brought some relief for many people. The opportunities to be outside more often, to get fresh air and exercise, and possibly see others in a socially distanced way, likely helped many people feel less isolated. But as Winter draws near and temperatures are dropping in many parts of the country, mental health experts warn that the return to more indoor activities, and the reality that this will be a winter of continued isolation, will lead to continued feelings of exhaustion and stress.
There are ways to mitigate some of these feelings of stress and isolation. According to Dagmawi Dagnew, a psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs, uncertainty is a key reason we feel stress, so having a plan for handling the switch back to winter is important to combat the uncertainty.
Maintaining social connections is also a high priority. Humans are social creatures, and socially isolating is not beneficial for mental health. Making sure to call friends and family on the phone, or scheduling regular Zoom calls can help in feeling connected.
Maintaining regular schedules and routines is a good way to minimize anxiety. Even if small changes need to be made, maintaining an overall routine is helpful.
Limiting screen time can help reduce stress and anxiety that may result from an oversupply of news and information.
In addition, regular physical activity, sticking with (or creating) routines, eating healthfully, and getting adequate amounts of sleep are also basics that mental health experts recommend to help with mental health.
RestoreResilience provides employers the opportunity to help their employees learn to develop the necessary coping skills in these trying times. The virtual program focuses on stress and anxiety, with additional emphasis on sleep, nutrition and exercise. In addition to working one-on-one with a personal health coach, members can also utilize peer-to-peer support, including communicating with other program members via weekly community discussions and our RestoreTV sessions. This added social connection not only helps members learn new coping skills from others, but it adds the social connection that is so important while many of us are isolated from others.