The pandemic has now lasted more than a year, and while there is an ending in sight, many of us that have been staying inside and reducing our social experiences are beginning to feel some of the effects that come from long term isolation. While the early stages of the pandemic were stressful enough, it’s not uncommon to find that, after a year, your tolerance for other people and stresses has decreased.
This is, in many, ways, not surprising. Human beings are social creatures that also crave change and new experiences. We’ve been surrounded by stress and bad news for a year, and while there appears to be some hope on the horizon, that hope often feels small and far away.
What We Can Do to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Happy
Even with a vaccine, it may take time for the world to feel like it’s opening back up again. So what can we do to feel like we’re less irritable and happier as we wait for things to get back to normal?
Therapy is a great start. Part of the issue is that many people have unresolved stress, anxiety, and depression that has been festering for a long time. Many people avoided psychotherapy during the pandemic, but we encourage you to give us a call as soon as possible to get started. If you’re still planning to isolate, we have remote therapy available, and if you do think that you’re ready to see someone in person or you’ve been vaccinated, you can find us at our offices in Rockville Centre and Garden City.
But in the interim, there are still some strategies you can use to help feel some relief. These include:
- Outside Exercise – Anxiety and irritability can be more common when we find ourselves largely immobile, and unfortunately that is what many people have found when they’ve been on lockdown – less likely to move around, and more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle. After a year of that behavior, it is natural to develop some stress and irritability, so exercise – especially outdoors, with the sun – is encouraged.
- Find Social Experiences – Any in-person social experience carries risk, but the CDC does support the idea that some social experiences are safer than others. For example, gathering outside in an empty area, with a mask, and spacing 6 to 10 feet apart is considered quite safe, and gives you an opportunity to see a friend in person. If you’re in a high risk group, have more video calls to make sure you’re getting exposure to friend and family faces.
- Create Goals and New Experiences – The “Sameness” of self-quarantining is an ongoing problem, as doing the same routine every day can be draining and problematic. So introducing new experiences into your life is a good way to keep things fresh. It can be things like learning an instrument, practicing a craft, or getting into an activity like hiking (which is also good for exercise). These new experiences and others help to make life a bit richer, and break some of the monotony of isolation.
The effects of this time period may be long lasting, which is why it is useful for people to seek out help, especially after this shared trauma is over as a way to adjust back into a more content life. But small changes can make a big difference, and using some of the strategies above can make it easier to feel less stressed and irritable as we start to move forward.