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Surviving on Stress During a Pandemic
I have always been someone who grapples with stress. I could blame a genetic predisposition, character-forming years or simply, an unfair personality type… but whatever the reason, it is just how I am wired.
I know it and you could say I have even accepted it. I tend to just get on with life, taking calming breathes or occasionally short-circuiting… you know, whichever works.
Yet, what has really set me on edge during this pandemic is seeing my nervous nature reflected in others, day in, day out.
It is unsettling to witness the tell-tale signs of chronic stress or supressed anxiety visibly brimming under the surface of people who aren’t (normally) ‘stressed out’.
Out of all the things that have affected me during all this COVID craziness, that has really shaken and unnerved me. I know the toll that constant stress takes on a person better than most – and it scares me.
Because stress is exhausting to live with. It is like an unwelcome houseguest that just won’t leave. It overstays its welcome, metaphorically piling up dirty dishes and untidying your home.
Worse, it permeates every facet of your life, disrupting and destabilising as it grows. It affects you in every way possible – and before too long, it shapes you.
Since March 2020, even at Sintrex – I have seen how this stress fatigue (or ‘COVID fatigue’, if you will) has shaped us.
On Monday mornings at the office, instead of regaling each other with stories about our past weekends, we talk about how bone tired or worried we are, like it is just something we’ve resigned ourselves to.
We come back from annual leave more pent-up and fatigued than when we left.
As people, we navigate our days like out-of-control trapeze artists, weaving in and out of safety restrictions and layers of protection. You know, just casually finding ourselves responsible, every day, for our lives and those around us. (I don’t know about you – but I find that incredibly stressful but no pressure here…)
Even planning a coffee date or carefully spending time with high-risk loved ones requires as much focus, planning and dedication as a moonwalk mission.
Yet, we endure, trapped in this weird cycle of eat, (try) sleep, stress, repeat.
And the longer we endure, the more we adjust to the ‘new normal’, I think to myself, “How much longer can we run on fumes? How long can we survive under this constant stress before we all just… crack or fall apart?”
We live in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight. So, between that and all the grief, fear and uncertainty floating around… I find myself wondering what the long-term effects of COVID-19 will be. Not just on our physical health – but on our psyches?
Even with virus antibodies and vaccines – there’s no jab in the arm for curing stress or its lasting, life-altering effects.
It alters you… how can it not? I mean, if soldiers come back from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), having seen and lived through untold emotional distress and fear – then what happens to you after you have lived through a world-wide pandemic having lost a loved one, a job or even just your daily structure?
How can we ease our anxieties and silence the fear when our world has been rocked, tipped upside down and thrown around (just for good measure)?
Here is the hard truth: we can’t. I am sorry if you were hoping for a more optimistic answer.
But before you despair – take a deep breath because here is another possible truth to hold onto…
No matter what the aftereffects of this pandemic are, no matter how it shapes us and alters our lives… we have learnt that when the chips are down: we feel the fear – and do it (life) anyway.
So maybe, just maybe, even though it feels like we are surviving on stress or running on fumes… we are somehow actually thriving and becoming braver, kinder and more resilient people as a whole.
I mean, just look at what we have done and continue to do, despite this stress.
We have paused our celebrations, choosing to put the sanctity of life first. We are looking after the health and safety of others, every day. We sacrifice our needs and liberties for the sake of the greater good.
We have even homeschooled our children and performed our jobs to the best of our ability, even though we are all a bit tired, fragile and sad inside.
And if all of that – and more – is the price that we must pay during a global pandemic… then perhaps, just this once, surviving on stress is doing more than enough?
Tamlyn Ryan, Content Writer Sintrex