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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

Stages of Stress during a Pandemic #2

Whether you are sick, sheltering or an essential worker going out into the world daily, we're all dealing with increased stress.  How have you changed your approach to this stress over the last 6 weeks? Traumatic stress takes us through a series of stages.  It helps to recognize these stages, to see our own mental progress in dealing with the world right now.  I wanted to write this article weeks ago, but simply didn't have it in me.  I was paralyzed, unable to be creative or productive, which was simply my stage of dealing with the pandemic at the time.  When you're struggling with your own or a friends extra anger, irritability or exhaustion-  keep in mind this is part of the natural response to stress and it is only a stage to move through.  Denial  When a friend first told me she was frightened of Covid-19 I said "they do this every year, choose a big bad sickness to frighten you." Oops, I was wrong.  My initial reaction was based on previous years research and I hadn't done the research.  It was easier just to deny it.  Panic  Next phase panic and control.  I researched, panicked and went into production mode, organizing my life and work to prepare for a pandemic.  As an 'essential worker' I was able to use my panic energy to procure extra immune supplements for my community.   Other nutritionists were in the same situation so Vitamin C, Zinc and elderberry quickly became unavailable in the supply chain.  Did you have extra energy at one point?  Did that energy help you to prepare? Control After awhile, the panic was starting to wear off and I was just irritable and controlling.  Why wasn't everyone else wearing a mask, staying home, standing over 6 feet apart?  I knew I needed a new perspective, but didn't know how to get there.  I printed out scary stories and county guidelines. I wrote nasty notes then deleted them on facebook a dozen times.   Exhaustion I had this nagging voice that said I should be working more to help people boost immune health, but I was exhausted.  Just because we have extra time does not mean we have extra mental power to use the time.  I was grateful to come across this - anonymous on facebook.  You are doing fine We are going through a collective traumatic experience.  Not everyone has the privilege of turning a pandemic into something fun or productive.  Stay healthy.  Healing Phase Having extra free time during a collective traumatic experience is incredibly healthy.  How much better will my kids deal with the virus, only because shelter in place means lounging in the sun, riding bikes, sleeping and doing an occasional Zoom class.   Before this they were stressed out with school and work and not sleeping enough which is terrible for immune health!  Then I sprained my ankle and was forced to shelter in place.   I spent a week with my ankle perched up on the couch.  Lots of sleep, lots of TV and good food.  Lots of healing and no controlling.  Organizing and Producing I reemerged from my own shelter in place well rested.  When I got to work I found everyone masked, tape on the floor and disinfecting protocols in place.  It's taken me a few more weeks to finish up healing, work through an organizing phase and move into production phase.  What are your phases?    How have you responded emotionally and physically to Covid-19 and shelter in place?  Has it been hard for you?  Have you slept more?  less?  Are there wonderful things that have come out of staying home with your family?   Are you an essential worker?  Are you grateful to be working?  Are you scared? Thanks for pondering this important question with me.  How does the stress of this pandemic affect our bodies?  When I meet a new client I always ask "what happened in your life in the 6 months before your diagnosis." We always find a major stress.   By addressing the stress in a healthy way we can feel better and improve digestion and immune health. Sincerely,  Anna Rathbun, NC


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