Did You Know You Were Running a Marathon?
Before you read the rest of this, I just wanted to say we have a collection of free recipes on the CoreMatters website Home page that you are welcome to cruise through if you’re looking for something new to make at home. Go to the Welcome Kit tab on the menu bar and dive in!
But what I wanted to write about today is something we’re not talking about much: our mental health.
(If you prefer to listen to the topic, maybe while you take a walk :-), check out our podcast on the topic.)
The point is, even if we’re the lucky ones—we still have jobs, health insurance, food—we are all experiencing levels of anxiety that we’ve never experienced before.
According to Dr. Jeffery A . Lieberman, M.D., Columbia University, “We’re running a marathon. And the problem is that we can’t pace ourselves because we don’t know if the marathon’s going be a half marathon, a full marathon, or an Ironman marathon.”
I think it’s actually more like we’re very slowly walking a marathon with no finish line in sight.
And every time we think we’re getting somewhere, a hotspot pops up and we have to go back and retrace our steps, only to find ourselves back in the same unknowable position, no finish line in sight.
This is a huge problem. Our brains are predictive. They make predictions about how safe things are based on how safe things were. And right now, the comparison is frightening. We’ve never navigated anything as precarious as this before.
Because we have to keep moving forward into the unknown, it’s very unsettling, which the brain articulates as stress. And it’s the worst kind of stress: chronic. It sits there in our lives like a constant backbeat.
This means, for example, anyone who was susceptible to depression, anxiety, or insomnia before COVID-19, is probably suffering heightened symptoms now.
But these days, everyone is likely to experience difficulty coping even it you think you’re ok.
Lots of people are doing even more worrying and care-taking of loved ones. And if your loved ones have special needs, you’re most likely now working without that network of other help you had before.
Or people may be grappling with having lost someone to the virus who they could not comfort. And now who comforts them?
Folks may still have a job, but not job-security.
And we are all suffering from being isolated. Because we are neurologically wired to be in a group, this is just plain weird. Which may be why some people are adamant about gathering freely now, despite the potential danger.
We find safety in numbers. Until now.
Now, we experience a unique paranoia. To varying degrees, we have to suspect everyone around us. That’s not normal…well, it didn’t used to be.
The new normal seems to be a swing between optimism and despair, which can happen in the same 24 hours.
One minute, we are excited to live the life we dreamt about in February while sitting in rush hour traffic. The next, we’re feeling defeated or hopeless.
We’re afraid of the future. What if we catch the virus ourselves, or someone we love catches it? And what’s going to happen to the economy–or I should say, the many layers of the economy? What will happen to the entire class of high school and college graduates who are left floundering? And the young children not in school learning social skills and developing their future? We’re unable to concentrate, or worried without reason, or not sleeping deeply, or having weird dreams.
Or perhaps we are actually living the nightmare of loss and are grieving.
In fact, we’re all grieving.
We’ve lost our old world. Not slowly or gradually. It was snatched from us.
So this is a conversation we need to have.
Some people are sick of hearing about COVID-19 and have tuned out. But this is exactly the time when we need to dig in.
We’ve all been making jokes about coping with food and/or alcohol. Well, it’s not a joke anymore.
We’ve been rewiring our habits, and we should be careful.
If we understand what’s happening to us, we can control our outcome. Since it’s going to be a long, long walk ahead to our new normal, let’s be clear about where we’re going ourselves and as a society because
We are forever changed.
We have been transformed. Now the hard work begins: to define that unknowable transformation. Which means the stress we’re under isn’t going away any time soon.
And stress depresses your immune system. It’s definitely not a good time for that.
So if you or someone you know is feeling confused, depressed, or unsettled, reach out for help. Call your doctor and ask for a referral. Or contact your local Health Department for services.
If you’d like to speak with someone anonymously, call, text, or visit the Disaster Distress Hotline here:
Text TALKWITHUS to 66746
Let’s all be safe out there.
For more detail, here’s some extra reading:
How to Tell if It’s More Than Just a Bad Mood