Dear Dr.Eve – Another Lockdown! How do I get my life back on track?

DEAR DR EVE – 14 JULY 2021

Dear Dr. Eve,
Another lockdown and I am just over this all. I cannot get my life back
on track. I try, but I don’t succeed. I am worried about myself. I am a
parent of 2 small children, a wife, and a daughter, and am not performing
well in any of my roles.
Over the last few months, I have found my mental health deteriorating. I
am snappy, then I’m happy, then I’m grumpy. I’ve lost motivation at
work, and even shopping for necessities feels like an unbearable chore. I
feel distant from my husband and just want to curl up alone. How can I
snap back to my old self?
Lebo

Dear Lebo,
It is hard work living through a pandemic. It is depleting, depressing,
anxiety-provoking, and exhausting. At the outset, I want to congratulate
you for making it this far, in one piece, even if that piece is a little
wobbly.

For a moment can I ask you to set aside your mental health concerns.
and consider all that you have so far achieved in the last 18 months.
Getting up, grooming, feeding yourself and your family, working in a job,
running a home, perhaps engaging in sexual intimacy with your husband,
hugging your children, sleeping. These are just a few examples of
“achievements” when one is living under threat, which is how a pandemic
makes one feel.

So well done to you!

Reading your story, it appears that your emotional reserves are stripped.
This leaves you emotionally, relationally, physically vulnerable. You need
tools to hang in and to survive and thrive again.

You are not alone in your despair: A recent article in The Atlantic stated
: The mental-health crisis of the pandemic is real. A staggering four in 10 adults
have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, a quadrupling of the pre-
pandemic rate.  More than one in four mothers reported that the pandemic has had
a major impact on their mental health.  Twenty-four percent of parents have
reported being diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the start of the
pandemic. Visits to primary care for anxiety and depression have increased 13
percent among kids.

I want to tease out the differences between “burnout “ ”depression “
“anxiety” and “PTSD”. As you will see, applying a label to yourself may
make you feel more “normal”. Which is fine. And it may make you reach
out for professional help, which is a really good thing to do. In addition, I
invite you to be present with the wisdom of your body. Listen to what
your body needs. Below I have a few tips which may be really useful for
you.

Very simplistically :
– DEPRESSION; this is characterized by persistently depressed
mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment
in daily life.
– BURNOUT: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased
mental distance from one’s job or feel negative towards one’s
career reduced professional productivity

– ANXIETY: Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about
everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating and
feeling tired may occur.
– PTSD :  occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a
a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a
terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened
with death, sexual violence, or serious injury.

Tips for managing your mental health :

  1. Recognize that anxiety is to be expected during a pandemic and
    that having physical symptoms is a result of an accumulation of
    stress
  2. Consider the positives : we have effective and safe vaccines ,
    which means protection from the virus. And then consider your own
    personal positives.
  3. Take charge of your own life again. Hard , huh?! Mental health
    depletion makes it exhausting to exercise or eat in a nutritionally
    healthy way. Set aside the guilt and shame and invite your body to
    let you know how it feels like moving and what it feels like eating.
  4. Look around your home – see what you can simplify.
  5. Consider how to work differently – or do different work.
  6. Take charge of your Relationships. This is a good time to consider
    who in your life is an energy drainer and who is an energizing
    presence.
  7. Crisis present opportunities- do not miss your opportunity to have
    that “difficult “ conversation with your significant other . More about
    this on my social media posts.
  8. Be intentional with your time. Spend time with your calendar and
    remind yourself that are in charge of how you fill it in.
  9. Cut out non essentials from your daily life
  10. Set realistic expectations for yourself
  11. Set up boundaries – it’s called #selfcare
  12. Reach out for support
  13. Spend less time online

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