Learn more about our FREE COVID-19 Patient Support Program for chronic illness patients and their loved ones.
Will this ever end? That is the lament I’m hearing often from my clients now (as well as from my friends). We are TIRED. We are tired of the coronavirus, tired of the confusing messages about how to live with it, and — most of all — tired of the toll all of this continues to takes on our health and happiness.
How do we navigate a time that has no clear sign posts, and where we continue to feel endangered?
This is particularly true for my clients who have compromised immune systems or live with chronic conditions like pain. Because of their health issues, they’ve already made untold adjustments — both large and micro shifts — to live their lives with a reasonable degree of balance and sanity. The pandemic has undone that delicate balancing act for many of them.
There are no easy or quick fixes, and you already know that. Most of what I share with my clients you also already know. But we are back to basics as we dedicate ourselves to building up our mental and physical energy reserves that have been so depleted.
Coping with High Anxiety
The number one concern I hear is “my anxiety is up again.”
Yes, and no wonder. Anxiety is the signal for “I don’t feel safe” or “I’m not going to be safe.” That feeling gets coupled with the unpredictability that is all around us: from Omicron to our work requirements to how we feel every day. If I can’t count on any external stability, I will feel anxious about how to locate or ground myself.
So back to the basics. Start with breathing. If you are able, do some gentle walking that allows you to notice the world. Slow down in whatever way works best for you. In that slowing down, noticing the ways you are okay in this moment. Be present to what is — and remind yourself that you are handling this.
This doesn’t “fix” anything, but it restores some of your capacity to deal with what is. It reduces anxiety by bringing your parasympathetic nervous system back on line from the “fight or flight or freeze” state where many of us hang out a lot of the time.
Limit your information intake
From that state of more expansiveness in our bodies and minds, my second recommendation is to listen for what you (and you alone) need. The overwhelm of information, misinformation, and conflicting information about how to protect ourselves and stay well is de-stabalizing.
A recent study done at Rutgers University found that conflicting health information not only causes confusion, but backlash toward the information itself.
“This suggests that conflicting health information can not only tire us out and dull our responses but may also impact our behavior, potentially putting us off from following advice about our health,” according to Emily Reynolds, writing about the research findings for the British Psychological Society.
Pay attention to what YOU need to feel well and safe. Listen to your own wisdom about what’s right for you, even if others disagree. The reality we are waking up to is that this is all so new and fast-moving that no one has the best expert advice.
Your job is to pay attention to what works for you, your body, and your sense of safety. Spend less time Googling and researching what others are saying. I am not suggesting that you ignore common-sense advice, and advice that has clearly been studied and researched.
We don’t know enough about Omicron (or any other new variant) to declare it “not a big deal.” We don’t know enough about what will happen as it gets warmer. We don’t really know the interactions between this virus and other kinds of inflammatory disease, or immunocompromised systems. As usual, that research will be later in coming. So pay attention to your own best practices, and the advice of your doctors and trusted sources. Help yourself not be any more overwhelmed.
Give yourself compassion
Finally, be kind to yourself. No one is at their best. This has been happening to everyone, and all of us are tired and frayed. Allow yourself to forgive yourself for any ways you have not been your best self — give yourself some compassion. Living through a pandemic, and taking care of life requirements like bills and meals and clean clothes, as well as managing the significant health challenge of your disease is an remarkable accomplishment.
I know you may find this hard to believe, because you are so used to coping, and this is just one more gigantic burden you are coping with, as you always do. But this — juggling everything you already are while living through COVID — isn’t just “one more thing.” It’s been a world-disrupting rift in life as usual. It has bankrupted mental health reserves, and here you are. Getting up, doing your work, reading a blog, holding on to some hope and sanity. Give yourself a hug or a pat on the back. Be kind. We are joining hands and hearts to get through this. And gentleness and compassion ease the way.
Get Free Coronavirus Support for Chronic Illness Patients
Join the Global Healthy Living Foundation’s free COVID-19 Support Program for chronic illness patients and their families. We will be providing updated information, community support, and other resources tailored specifically to your health and safety. Join now.
Barnwell PV, et al. Healthy or not? The Impact of Conflicting Health-Related Information on Attentional Resources. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. September 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-021-00256-4.
Reynolds E. Conflicting Health Information Can Compromise our Attention. The British Psychological Society. January 17, 2022. https://digest.bps.org.uk/2022/01/17/conflicting-health-information-can-compromise-our-attention.