Over the last 18 months we have been facing a crisis that is the COVID 19 pandemic, with ongoing uncertainty and unexpected and almost daily change. We have been holding onto the hope that there is a solution and an outcome that will return us to some form of “normal”.
When we respond to a crisis it starts with a collective burst of energy, knowing that we are not alone. We did this in March 2020. We banded together, supported each other virtually, shared funny memes, mastered Zoom, and bonded over our shared experience. We continued through most of 2020 with extended lockdowns and restrictions intended to protect our health and wellbeing, looking forward to the introduction of a vaccine or a solution to reconnect in person.
We are now feeling disillusioned and exhausted, referring to our current state as Covid Fatigue. Psychiatrist Dr Petros Levounis, describes this stage as crash and burn out because the human body does not have the capability to sustain long term stress. (Healthline, 2020)
The human body responds to crisis with adrenaline to maintain our energy and alertness in a state of danger. When our body is producing stress hormones for sustained periods, it disrupts our brain’s cognitive functions including how we relate to others, our ability to concentrate, problem solve and make decisions. We may find our emotional responses become irritable and we prefer to not socialise. The longer we are stressed, the more difficult it becomes for us to adapt in everyday life. (ABC Health & Wellbeing, 2020)
According to Stephen Covey, when we focus on issues in our circle of concern, such as the pandemic and restrictions, we lose opportunity to be proactive and directly influence issues in our control. The areas of control, according to Covey, are our behaviours. Take the opportunity to adjust your focus this week, to deliberately uplift your mood and take action to do those things that energise you. (Covey, 1989)
Exercise releases endorphins and we feel happy. Go for a walk or a run, and if you can access nature, immerse yourself in the sounds, appreciate the beauty and feel the ground beneath your feet. Spending time in nature, evokes positive emotions.
Our phones and other screen devices are downloading light, images, news, communication, and endless information to us. Unplugging from our screens gives our minds, emotions, and body a rest. (Dalton-Smnith, 2021) Unplug during your walk or run.
If you live alone, call people you enjoy spending time with. When we are talking to someone, sharing, and connecting, our body releases another hormone, oxytocin, that makes us feel relaxed. If you are lucky enough to live with people you love, have meaningful conversations, and give them long hugs. Our pets also improve our wellbeing and help reduce stress. Apparently, spending time with your pet releases the same hormones as those released when you hug someone. (Harvard Health, 2014)
The final tip, social connection and a sense of belonging are the two factors that help communities through tough times. These are really challenging times but, now more than ever, our support for each other in a compassionate, respectful, and thoughtful way are crucial to us working our way through the challenges of the pandemic. In times of struggle, communities come together to support each other and provide that support that brings not only hope but optimism. We certainly have seen that in recent times across the country with bushfires, floods, and the pandemic itself. But what overwhelming stands out is our willingness, passion, and a strong sense of support from community that generally always shine through.