The fact that we have been stressed tremendously is not news to anyone. But it might help to understand the complex relationship between stress and our bodies. Why do our bodies adapt to some stressful events while other stressors make us sick?
Let us start with the difference between the stressors our ancestors faced and the ones we face in modern times. In the past, people worried about contracting diseases like TB, flu, and pneumonia; and young women worried about death during childbirth. Until we hit this pandemic, we never worried about such infections. Instead, we worried about things like mortgages, jobs, and relationships. None of these are life threatening. Today on the news, distant and remote threats are immediate and near disturbing. People have lost sleep because of this. Have you noticed that every news story is somehow a breaking news these days? Just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel, we were hit with the Omicron surge like wildfire.
The stress of the pandemic has been persistent, and we have been robbed of the normal social outlets – like a perfect storm. Even though our worlds started to open up before Omicron, people were justifiably still not going places for fear of exposure to the virus. Social distancing has become the new mantra. It has ruined the holidays for countless people. It has impacted graduations, weddings, and other celebrations.
You know something is seriously wrong when kids who normally hate school complain about missing school. People used to beg to be allowed to work from home. Now, they wish they could go back to the office because they find work from home very stressful. They find themselves working longer hours when they work from home. Parents are constantly stressed about juggling their work at home and watching their children and helping them with remote learning and trying to keep them occupied.
We experience so many uncertainties and ambiguities – in person vs virtual learning and work. We have so many questions and worries – will there be a fourth wave, will the vaccines protect us from all the variants?
And, I believe, one of the worst experiences has been the loss of loved ones and worse, the inability to attend the funeral of a loved one.
Our lives have been upended in so many ways. There has been a rise in anxiety and depression. The pandemic has created new barriers to get help for those with serious mental illness. People are tired and fatigued. Last year, in Mumbai, I was told that they found the devastating cyclone a welcome distraction from the horrors of the raging Delta corona wave. That tells us the extent of the stress from this pandemic.
Our social supports have been taken away during the pandemic. People who provide the support are stressed. Psychotherapists and psychiatrists who provide mental health care are stressed. Caregivers have had their own unique challenges.
Our lives have changed in so many ways. And some things will never be the same when the dust settles.
In the comments below, please share how your life has been affected by this pandemic. And, tell us what has helped you in coping with it. Your comments and ideas may be valuable to others who are struggling to cope with this pandemic.,
In upcoming blog posts, I will discuss how the body responds to stress and how it affects our bodies, especially the chronic persistent stress, and what you can do to help.
By Vasudev N Makhija, MD, DLFAPA
Subscribe to SAMHIN’s email list if you would like to be notified when SAMHIN publishes new blog posts.
If you are interested in joining SAMHIN’s mission or have questions about the organization, please contact SAMHIN at email@example.com.