What a lot of changes we have undergone in the past couple weeks or so! Some have been easy to make, and some changes have been made kicking and screaming. These changes have caused much understandable stress, disruption, fear and uncertainty.
One of the basic definitions of stress is that it is our bodies’ response to change. The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is the physiological mechanism in which our mind tells our brain that certain situations — like the COVID-19 virus — are scary and we need to respond with a fight-flight-or-freeze response. If we have perceived the current situation as accurate, then we have the adrenaline output needed to quickly defend ourselves physically or run away. But sometimes we have also learned to freeze, like the deer or rabbit who has learned to pretend to be dead and be as still as possible until the threat has gone away.
So what do we do in this global crisis? We need to take action by fighting against the coronavirus with all of our scientific and medical prowess. We need to also flee or avoid contact with others and stay sheltered at home as much as possible to protect ourselves and our fellow human beings throughout the world. But we can’t freeze or play dead. That approach is not life-sustaining in dealing with the current pandemic.
What are some ways we can stay sane and stay connected with others?
First of all, know that experiencing a significant amount of anxiety is normal in this situation. This is a time of much uncertainty for the present and the future. Don’t beat yourself up about this. Also, recognize that others may be feeling upset and disconcerted as well, so give them some slack — maybe that’s the emotional equivalent of the 6-foot social distancing rule. I know I have been more fatigued, drained, and a tad irritable (right, Cathy?). Another important component of getting through these times of change and stress is to develop some structure in your daily schedule. Finding the right amount of sustaining activities is key here, not cramming your life with too many distracting and draining things out of desperation and fear and not having too much empty time that breeds the added sense of helplessness and disconnection. If we can find some activities each day that give worth and value to ourselves and others, then we can develop a pace or rhythm of life that is sustainable and reciprocal. Lastly, it’s important to have hope — hope that we will get through this and that God understands what we are going through and can provide that peace that passes all understanding.