It’s July. Are you tired of this yet?
You may be back in the office by now. Every workday, or once in a while. For sure, you’ve ventured often out of your COVID cave to buy groceries or get takeout or just some fresh air. Have you noticed? Doing the simplest things, things you hardly paid attention to in the prepandemic world, feel like having a second job, or worse. It’s stressful being on guard all the time when you’re out and about. It’s hard to relax and get into the groove of everyday life during this painful, slow-motion re-entry.
Here, culled from various experts, are strategies for navigating to the distant stars of our new reality—renewed energy, positivity and, yes, even happiness.
Dealing with ‘Knuckleheads’
In his daily press briefings during the public health crisis, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey made a point of naming and shaming “knuckleheads” who he said were threatening the health of others by ignoring the CDC’s recommendations for safe distancing and more.
Maybe you’re tired of recoiling or reflexively backing away from such people, especially those who won’t wear masks or think they are a fashion accessory to hang loosely about their necks. It can be exhausting when simple things feel like encountering the enemy in a combat drill.
Health experts say it’s OK to speak up, but is the additional stress worth it? “Don’t worry about how the other person might feel. Say what you need to say, do it with grace and dignity, and allow them to deal with their feelings and emotions about what just transpired,” Elaine Swann, who specializes in lifestyle and etiquette issues, suggested to The New York Times.
Yet, another strategy can often achieve the same result.
“I can control my own behavior more than I can control others’ behavior,” said Bethany Teachman, a professor of psychology at University of Virginia, who decided she wouldn’t return to one grocery store in her neighborhood where the employees weren’t wearing masks.
Another aspect of your life you can control is information intake. In other words, it may be time to lose—or at least lessen—the bad news. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, therapist Steven Stosny dubbed what a continuous diet of disturbing news can do as “headline stress disorder.” At a time when many planners are struggling to revive their livelihoods, the relentless news cycle can trigger acute feelings of worry and helplessness—and Stosny says his female patients are particularly affected.
Medical News Today cites a 2012 study that concluded that women remember negative news longer and have more persistent physiological reactions to the stress caused by such news. “Many feel personally devalued, rejected, unseen, unheard and unsafe. They report a sense of foreboding and mistrust about the future,” Stosny wrote.
Skip today’s headlines and pivot to what research has shown can help reduce stress—activities such as reading, exercise, listening to music and meditation. Can’t go that far? Katherine C. Nordal, executive director for professional practice for American Psychological Association, advises, “Read enough to stay informed, but then plan activities that give you a regular break from the issues and the stress they might cause. And remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to other areas of your life.”
Another proven approach is to go on a regimented news diet. Restrict yourself to a set time of day and time spent—say, 30 minutes. That means turning off the news alerts on your phone and avoiding Twitter. Try it for a week. See if you feel that a load has been lifted from your shoulders. After all, you can always go back—bad news will be waiting.
It really is amazing how much humans can endure if they stay calm and composed.
As Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global health at Northwell Health, told Business Insider, “We need to keep calm. We have to take this with the appropriate level of seriousness, protect the people who are most at risk, but the rest of us have to take the anxiety down one notch and get through this. Do things that are smart, but avoid panicking.”
Try to stay positive. “Stop yourself from beginning to imagine the worst-case scenario. Instead, let go of negative thoughts and refocus your mind on something positive, no matter how small,” is the advice of Entrepreneur contributing writer Jacqueline Whitmore.
Hang in there. Soon it will be August. And day by day, the world will reawaken—somewhat changed, perhaps, but still full of possibility and promise.