Organization and exercise can relieve pandemic stress

Q: It has been a little over a year now since all of us have fallen victim to the pandemic that knows no bounds. It is all over the place, breaking out with even more infections just when we think that we might have parts of it under control.

I know you have written various comments about the pandemic over the past 12 months but I am wondering if you would mind doing it again?

I guess the big thing for me and our family is the stress that is left behind when the pandemic unleashes a wave of viral infections.

The stress itself has been overwhelming. So many people have lost their jobs, many more worry about theirs, schools are unpredictable, sometimes they are open for business and other times they are not.

Flying out for a break of some kind or just a holiday is questionable and we cannot even have a visit with our neighbours. It seems that as a larger community, we might finally be getting somewhere with the pandemic. At least the numbers are gradually going down.

But what about the stress? Is it going down too? Is there anything that we might consider doing about it?

A: I am glad you have focused on the stress we are facing with the pandemic. It is overwhelming.

I wonder sometimes if even the tides of battle that we confronted during the Second World War had the same levels of stress that we confront every time hear or talk about COVID-19. Social media outlets and cellphones mean we are constantly bombarded with updates.

Knowing how devastating the stress levels have been with this pandemic, we must also be aware of how magnificent have been our families and our neighbours in dealing with it.

I see people everywhere doing what they can to not let that viral infection destroy their lives.

I see people wearing masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of the viral infection. I see neighbours shopping for neighbours so that not everyone has to go into the grocery stores.

I see family members waving through windows of nursing homes so that Grandma and Grandpa will know that someone cares about them.

I see people turning spare rooms into offices, setting up their computers and working from home to limit the interpersonal contact that otherwise makes the day.

I see people visiting each other in their garages, chairs paced off at six-feet intervals, to give themselves their cherished social distances while still having a chat to calm their nerves.

Who hasn’t been involved in a Zoom meeting, Facetime or other type of online meeting? I think that when we are talking about the stress that has come with COVID-19 we should give ourselves a huge pat on the back.

Let’s just go through a couple of suggestions to help us deal a little more with the stress.

The first suggestion is to reframe our thoughts in the pandemic. By reframe, I mean let’s reconsider it. The stress from the pandemic is there because in fact this is no easy task. No one is going to magically make it disappear. It dissipates only with a lot of hard work and co-operation from the entire community.

We need to recognize it as a significant challenge, one unlike any that has gone on before and one that can be beaten and will be beaten with a lot of effort from all of us.

The second suggestion is to exercise as much as you can. Stress leaves all of us with excess energy.

If we do not get rid of that energy, it could do some personal damage. So get out there. Go for walks when it is -39 C, stretch those muscles, toboggan with the kids, jog and jump and dissipate your energy supply. Supper will be that much more enjoyable when you know that all of those excess calories are burning off in the exercise room.

The final suggestion is to organize yourself. Sometimes it is hard to structure your days when you are never sure that the school will be open for your children today, that airplanes are going to be allowed to fly, if business deals are going to be honoured or prices in the lumber yard are going to continue to escalate and make it difficult to use that extra time to renovate the house.

But you can still structure your day, rise and shine at regular times, and set regular meal times, nightly family times and at least a few moments each and every day when everyone has to turn off their cells and pads and whatever and have a few moments to be together.

Let’s celebrate our successes, structure our days to the extent possible and work with great excitement to prepare for that new world that is on the other side of the pandemic.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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