MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Under duress of long-term stress

By Andrea Mory
Special to the Herald Democrat

The current pandemic has brought many changes to all of our lives. It’s almost impossible to find someone not affected and most of us are extremely affected. Hopefully we are looking toward some relief as vaccines become more available. However, an extended stressful situation, like we have all been through over the last year, can really take a toll on our mental and emotional health. Even individuals who seem to maintain a high level of mental health in regular stress circumstances, can have a difficult time when they are under duress for extended periods with high levels of anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. It can be somewhat overwhelming because there is so much information, speculation and there are many things that we simply have little control over.

In order to manage in these uncertain times, the Mayo Clinic suggests we focus on the things we do have control over. As a way to mitigate the seemingly unending waves of stress the Mayo Clinic has set forth three areas to focus on: Take care of your body, Take care of your mind and Connect with others.

To take care of your body:

· Stick close to your typical schedule. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. This predictability can make you feel more in control.

· Participate in regular physical activity which can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.

· Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety.

· Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you're already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.

· Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 minutes before bedtime. Remember to relax and recharge setting aside quite time for yourself.

To take care of your mind:

· Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations and focus on reliable sources such as the CDC and WHO.

· Stay busy. A distraction can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, identify a new project or clean out that closet. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.

· Use your moral compass and spiritual life for support. It can bring you comfort during these difficult times.

· Set priorities but don't become overwhelmed with an undoable list of things to do while you're home.

To connect with others:

· Make connections. If you need to stay at home and distance yourself from others, avoid social isolation. Find time each day to make virtual connections by email, texts, phone, or FaceTime or similar apps.

· If you're working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they're doing and share coping tips.

· Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people around you… email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbors.

· Support a family member or friend. If a family member or friend needs to be isolated for safety reasons or gets sick and needs to be quarantined at home or in the hospital, come up with ways to stay in contact.

Andrea Mory

Andrea Mory is a human resources and management professional and a certified Trust Based Relational Intervention Practitioner. She has collaborated over the last 20 years with the private practice MoryTherapy to develop training and education programs related to behavioral health. Learn more at The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.