Sustained stress: Ways to cope with pressure, stressors brought on by recent events

Stress, anxiety, low energy, and little motivation. Recent polls and studies have found that over two-thirds of Americans said their lives were changed forever by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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News Center 7′s James Brown said he found himself anxious while at a restaurant when he saw plexi-glass hanging from the ceiling to separate tables.

“I want to be done with COVID, and the stress it brings. A psychologist I talked with said everyone wants that,” Brown said.

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As we’ve all dealt with COVID, skyrocketing inflation, gas prices, and the war in Ukraine, its easy to say ‘enough is enough,’

“My 12 year old came home worrying about the war in Ukraine. And asking if we going to have a (World War 3),” psychologist Dr. Aparna Zimmerman told Brown.

Every day Zimmerman said she sees patients who are struggling to cope with all the stressors life has brought in the last few years.

“I think we’re seeing a little bite more of a shift in terms like depression. Seeing more depression, hopelessness, helplessness. Right now we’re on a pretty big wait list, we’re pretty full right now,” Zimmerman said.

She added many people are just looking to sit down and talk with someone about how they are feeling.

Brown went to The Greene in Beavercreek a few days ago with a whiteboard and just asked people “Penny for your Thoughts,” looking for a word or phrase about what people are thinking given the events of the world.

Jill McGhee, of Bellbrook wrong on the board “destroyed the economy.”

McGee works in retail and the pandemic forced her first store and she worries its going to happen again.

“It’s not been easy. I’ve seen a lot of people struggling,” McGhee said.

And others shared their feelings about how the pandemic has made them feel.

“I wrote depressed mostly about this whole COVID situation and everything,” Samantha Stein of Centerville said.

“I put anxious because I feel like after COVID and with the war it has a lot of people on edge,” Alexander Walker of Dayton said. Walker was pretty open and honest, adding “People piss me off.”

Zimmerman said there are ways to get past that.

“You could think about what brings you happiness and joy. It’s important to think about where am I? Where are my stress levels at the end of the day?” she said.

Walker added art and cooking have been ways he looked to cope.

Zimmerman said the last two years of stressors have rewired our brains. If you think of your brain as a glass of water, it can only hold and process so much.

“Emotional bandwidth is how much space capacity do we have to process emotions,” she said.

And when there’s too much, it overflows and leaves a mess to clean up.

Back to the whiteboard, Margaret Miller said she caught COVID and recovered, but her family has helped her get through it. Still she’s felt overwhelmed.

“I think there’s an overload. That’s a good way of saying it,” Miller said.

“Everything’s been like, I don’t even know who to explain it. Chaos the only word I could think of because everything’s been so hectic,” Alex Combs of Centerville said.

Zimmerman said a good coping mechanism is for people to look for the joy around them, and its important to balance that joy with the stressors.

Hudson Mahle, of Beavercreek, said he felt overwhelmed but his job, family, and exercising got him through.

“Stress, its been an adventure. Because we all been through a lot of stuff last couple years. We all learned a lot too,” Mahle said.

Olivia Fowler, of Tipp City and current University of Dayton student, said stress makes her wish she could just pause everything.

“Stress, its been an adventure . Because we all been through a lot of stuff last couple years. We all learned a lot too,” Fowler said.

Zimmerman said this feeling in particular is one she hears often and its natural and understandable.

“Some of the happiest times have come from the darkest times. Some of the best moments have come from some of the most difficult times we have been through. So, if there’s a silver lining, I think this is creating some resilience in all of us,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said she hopes resilience is something that helps everyone deal with everyday stressors and the new ones we’ll inevitably face. As for her, Zimmerman said she has simple questions she asks herself when dealing with multiple stressors: what does she look forward to every day? And what brings her joy?