Most days I feel fine. I get up and do what I need to do, and at the end of the day I go to bed and sleep.
But something has shifted since the beginning of the pandemic. I wasn’t able to put my finger on it until recently, when I attended an East Orlando Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the topic of the panel discussion was mental health.
I’d congratulated myself for making it through these past two years relatively unscathed, but I realized listening to the panel that this wasn’t true. We’ve all been affected, whether we realize it or not.
Before the pandemic, I’d get up early, work all day, take a couple of breaks, and then work at night in front of sports on TV. But I don’t do that anymore — by the end of the day, I have no concentration left. My brain is telling me to relax, which I think is a good thing, but for this self-professed workaholic, it just feels weird.
At the luncheon, panelist Mary Senne from Orlando Health described the three kinds of stress we experience in our lives. Senne serves as the corporate director of well-being and the director of physician wellness, and she has seen all three kinds of stress up close.
The first type is acute stress. You might feel this if your car breaks down, but it goes away when the situation is resolved. Then there’s chronic stress, which arises from long-term, low-intensity pressure such as caring for an elderly or disabled family member. You learn to cope with this over time, but it’s always there.
The third is complex stress, which everyone on the planet has suffered during the pandemic. This comes from feeling out of control and being unable to rely on normal coping mechanisms and social interaction. When so much of the world shut down, many people stopped going to the gym, visiting family and friends, attending events and traveling for vacation.
This has changed our behavior. We’re seeing more people fighting on planes and at stoplights. Children are showing aggression in school. Workers are leaving their jobs in record numbers to look for more meaningful careers.
What are you experiencing?
Mental health seems to be a topic of discussion all around us. We chose our cover story about 26Health for this Health and Wellness issue because of the way the company got its start supporting a community in crisis after the Pulse nightclub tragedy of 2016. The largest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time left 49 dead and a community wounded forever.
Mental health will also be front and center during the Women United luncheon on April 6 at the Rosen Plaza, where Ginger Zee from ABC News will be the keynote speaker. The chief meteorologist will share insights from her latest book, A Little Closer to Home: How I Found the Calm After the Storms.
It’s clear we need to change our expectations of what’s “normal,” panelist Allison Craft from Nemours Children’s Health said at the luncheon. The clinical psychologist said expecting ourselves to be who we were pre-pandemic would be like installing 2015 technology on our computers.
It’s OK if we need more hugs than we used to, or more down time. We can console ourselves with the words of another panelist, Dena Register, a certified music therapist and Chopra meditation teacher at the Lake Nona Performance Institute:
We are doing the best we can with the resources we have at this very moment in time.
Collective trauma calls for collective compassion, and we’re all going to need that in the year ahead — for each other as well as ourselves.
Have a great month!