Across the U.S., people have been living with a heightened level of stress for more than 18 months due to the ongoing pandemic. Nearly 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. say that worry and stress related to the threat of COVID-19 have played a negative role in their mental health, according to a recent survey.
"We think of just the wear and tear that the pandemic has had on all of us. We kind of think about it almost like an erosion effect over time, with the amount of stressors and different uncertainties that we've been going through," says Dr. Craig Sawchuk, chair of the Division of Integrated Behavioral Health at Mayo Clinic.
"That wear and tear gets to us, and if there hasn't been an opportunity to do some more restorative things, then after a while, people may start to get a little bit more edgy, a little bit more irritable, a little less patient."
Dr. Sawchuk explains that it's important to acknowledge the feelings of anger, frustration and fatigue, and then find strategies to better cope with those feelings. Relaxation exercises that can be done quickly and from anywhere may help you change your mindset.
"As emotions get cranked up, flexibility in our thinking and our ability to problem solve actually goes down," says Dr. Sawchuk. "This is true for all emotions — anger included. So relaxation-related exercises help us focus on things we can control."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Sawchuk discusses strategies for managing your mental health, and he offers tips for navigating family gatherings during the holidays.
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