Dealing with long-term pandemic stress

As we round the corner on two years of the pandemic, many are experiencing burnout, stress, and anxiety.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 8:19 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the pandemic nears two years, mental health experts say the prolonged anxiety that many are feeling isn’t normal.

“It’s hard to think about what it was before,” said Allison Badten of South Burlington.

After a few relocations since the end of 2019, Badten found herself chasing new adventures in Vermont. But stressors from all the way back in March of 2020 are still on her mind. “Working remotely, feeling very anxious and discouraged, and overwhelmed with everything,” said Badten.

Now, she is working in the field of mental health, specifically with kids. She says it’s rewarding but it comes with its own stressors. “It just feels like stress and anxiety are just an expectation with everyday life at this point,” said Badten.

Many feel a similar nagging hum of anxiety that has dragged on now for years and in some cases manifested in frustration.

“We don’t know when it’s ending and it keeps changing for all of us. I think that is very new,” said Erica Schleif, a licensed clinical mental health counselor. She says almost two years of collective trauma isn’t normal and we haven’t had to deal with that as a species in recent history. She says we are experiencing the same pandemic but from different lenses, and being overloaded with a constant stream of information and misinformation. But Schleif says the collective piece could work in our favor. “For one time I think in all of our lives, we are all kind of collected in that sense. We are all wandering around wondering what’s next.”

Schleif says we are also thinking about mental health and that’s a good thing. The specific details might be different but the feelings are similar. But with no clear end in sight, emotions will still heighten and she says we have to watch out for one another. “Humans are meant to be connected to other people,” said Schleif. She recommends simply connecting with those you have access to.

While Badten wrestles with some internal conflicts over people not wearing masks or being impartial to pandemic ending efforts, she does say going through this with everyone, does have its benefits. “If I see someone out and about wearing a mask and they look so tired of everything, I do have an instant connection to that person where I’m like, ‘I know, I know, I’m tired too,’” she said.

Schleif says it sounds cliché and something that many have likely already heard but that practicing self-care is important. “From an individual perspective, we have to check in with ourselves and we have to practice self-care. Self-care can be getting enough sleep, self-care can be exercise, it can be the foods that we eat. But at the end of the day, we have to take care of ourselves to be well for the world and to come out of this and we will,” she said.

Also, if you are experiencing extreme anxiety, she says it’s best to continue to reach out to a professional.

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