Editor’s note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of The Mendocino Voice. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
This column was provided by Lucresha Renteria, Executive Director of Mendocino Coast Clinics.
On the North Coast, we are seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. When the COVID-19 vaccine was released, people began to imagine how it would feel to attend weddings, concerts, and birthday parties with friends and family, hugging each other and seeing smiles that were hidden by masks for the last year and a half. Our return to normal felt within reach, and now that we’re backsliding, living in isolation feels depressing and overwhelming.
Humans are social creatures. Being separated from the people we love for long periods can lead to feelings of stress. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, you’re not alone:
- Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
- Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
- Lacking motivation
- Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Having trouble sleeping
- Having trouble concentrating
The question is, what can we do about it? According to behavioral health experts, there are several techniques to help manage stress. Here are a few to consider.
Get Good Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of how we build physical and emotional resilience. Yet when we’re stressed, it can be hard to fall asleep. For better sleep: 1. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (and don’t vary this routine too much on the weekends). 2. Avoid substances like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. 3. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. 4. Avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime. 5. Keep a journal next to your bed and jot down any concerns that keep you up. Then, try to let them go until morning. 6. Meditate.
Make Time for Social Connection
Connecting with friends and family via video chat isn’t as good as in-person, but it can still be wonderful. If you’re vaccinated, you can safely spend time with others outdoors as long as you maintain some physical distance and wear a mask.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep, practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can help you relax, as can keeping a journal—especially writing about things you’re grateful for. Another way to improve your sense of wellness is to engage in hobbies, such as reading, listening to music, or watching your favorite shows.
Pay Attention to Worrisome Trends
Most of us are good at rationalizing our own bad behavior, but at some point, you may need to be honest with yourself. If you are managing stress by using more alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food, talk to your medical provider or behavioral health provider about healthier coping techniques.
Stress in the Workplace
With how much time people spend at work, it’s important to reduce job-related stress. I realize that some jobs don’t have much flexibility, but if you can: take breaks from work to stretch or practice mindfulness techniques; check in with supportive colleagues; and set a regular time to end your workday.
Don’t Get Pulled into Hysteria
When the pandemic started, we knew almost nothing about COVID-19. Now we know a lot. If you hear something scary, confirm it with trustworthy sources before getting too upset. If someone says, “I heard the virus can __________________,” or “I heard the vaccine causes __________________,” ask them where they heard it. Is that a reliable source? Be informed about how to protect yourself and others. Misinformation can be devastating.
Get Help if You Need It
If you feel you or someone in your household may harm themselves or someone else, reach out for help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- The Online Lifeline Crisis Chat is free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area. (suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat)
- Call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224
Disaster Distress Helpline
- Call or text 1-800-985-5990
- Check with your employer for information about possible employee assistance program resources.
If you are not in crisis but want to schedule an appointment to see a medical provider or counselor, call us at Mendocino Coast Clinics at (707) 964-1251.