What is happening: If you’re one of the many health care practitioners here in the United States, then you may be wondering what awaits you in the new year, 2022. Even if you’re not a practitioner and are just a very concerned parent or individual, you might still be wondering!
We all know how stressful life has been in the past couple of years. We have been facing increasing anxiety and depression rates, our kids especially have been getting more violent, adults are more violent (here in Columbus, Ohio we have experienced the highest homicide rate in our history, as reported in the news), and suicidal ideation plus suicides are up. Substance use and overdoses are also up.
Vulnerable populations are very hard-hit. For example, older adults are more likely to experience anxiety and depression during this “pandemic.” They are also at increased risk for severe illness.
People in general are experiencing fear as perhaps never before, they are angry, sad, worried, and maybe they are numbing themselves to all of this just as kids of using parents often do. We are seeing changes in appetite (i.e., some eat more to cope, and some eat less), and there is so much distraction from these feelings stemming from perceptions of the circumstances, that we have more difficulty concentrating and especially making sound decisions.
We might also be experiences problems with sleeping or experiencing nightmares. As practitioners, you are aware that emotions like these have corresponding physiological issues, and people may be experiencing headaches, other body pains, issues with digestion (stomach/colon), and many break out in hives, etc.
People with chronic health problems may be experiencing a downturn in their prognoses and health status, and many have stayed home out of fear, going without conventional or other treatment, thereby worsening their conditions.
There is also increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs!
How to cope: As practitioners and/or parents, or just individual adults, the very first thing to do is self-care. Remember, we are all role models, especially for kids! Most of us have some helping bones in our bodies – we have a natural tendency to be of assistance to others. Whether these people are family members, friends, strangers, or clients, we are serving as role models.
Therefore, in times of such stress, it is critical to see to our own needs first. Remember, when on an airplane, if the oxygen masks come down, you are instructed to put your own mask on first before helping others! There’s a good reason for that – you can’t help others if you’re hindered in any way.
It's important to keep up your overall health and stamina - especially your own inborn immune response - by consuming a healthy diet, rich in fresh produce, clean meats, or rice and beans, etc.. Assuming you’re a believer (!), plenty of health-giving vitamins that are absorbable in your bodies.
You have a much better chance of staying healthy if you keep your immune system highly functional. Besides consuming a healthy diet, some supplements that will help are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, the B vitamins, zinc, rhodiola, Vitamins C, E, and A, iron, selenium, and zinc, just to name a few. Try to consume foods containing these supplements, but also supplement your food intake! That way you have a double punch of things that help!
It’s just as important in this current pandemic environment to practice mindfulness. This will help you combat the effects of the stress, helping to keep you calm and rational. This should help you focus, and this is important, because so many people around us are not doing this!
How you can help others: By remaining calm, cool, and collected, you will set the tone to help and inspire others to do so. Many people who have had COVID-19 have told us they don’t feel like themselves – they have some memory loss, are confused, have trouble concentrating, and just generally don’t feel like themselves. If you are a mental health care practitioner, you can help clients navigate the accompanying negative thoughts that occur with such feelings using the various talk therapy techniques.
This is highly important – in people who have passed away from COVID-19, their brains show large molecular changes in tissue, such as inflammation, disrupted circuits – much the way Alzheimer patients’ brains are, although apparently no traces of the virus have been discovered in brain tissue.
So definitely help others dealing with any of the above by supporting them to receive health care for their physical bodies, be it conventional or alternative. Lifestyle changes such as starting to meditate, intentionally doing activities that are calming (like taking a bubble bath) – “me” time – are helpful, engaging your creativity like painting, cooking, etc. that can help give a sense of normalcy, etc. If people are doing well on psychology medications, remind them to use them during such stressful times.
Moderate exercise is definitely very helpful in chasing the blues and other stressors away. I always recommend that people engage in physical activity that is both appropriate to their own bodies individually, and in doing things that are enjoyable to them, like dancing! Sleep health is likewise extremely important. So, instructing others on simple things like making sure all lights and sounds are out when trying to sleep represents a helpful strategy. Try to have people either turn off their electronic devices or at least darken them. Eating late at night is not a good strategy for high quality sleep.
We can also remind ourselves that this current climate won’t last forever, even if effects turn out to be long-term, and there are so many different tools we have at our fingertips that are helpful to ourselves and others. So, we just need to stay informed, and take good care of ourselves as we reach out to others.
Yes – you can do this!
And as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
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