Stressed out woman sitting on the couch

Mentally Exhausted from the COVID-19 Pandemic? You’re Not Alone 

After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve smiled through our masks and cried behind our masks. We’ve mourned from a distance and celebrated from a distance. We’ve replaced hugs with video calls and care packages.    

We know it’s all necessary to keep ourselves and those around us healthy and safe 

But none of it feels right. And that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.  

The stress of this change has been constant throughout the past year for many. Every day, we must choose how to safely interact with our families, friends and communities. In many cases, that means staying isolated from others – which can negatively impact our mental health. Though COVID-19 vaccines now hold promise for a more “normal” future, there are still many unanswered questions about when and how that will be possible. 

For too many households, they are still struggling with job security, unemployment and housing instability – adding to the daily stress of living through a pandemic.  

And many individuals are struggling with mental health issues that existed in their lives before we ever heard of COVID-19, like substance use disorder, depression and anxiety.  

Add it all together and the stress becomes overwhelming quickly. While we do what we must to physically survive the pandemic, it is taking a toll on our mental health. Research shows that disasters like pandemics have adverse mental health impacts that last far longer than the initial physical impact of the event itself. 

Stress is the body’s natural response to tough or demanding situations. We go into fight-or-flight mode, and our bodies respond in a physical way: our hearts beat faster, we feel tense, sweat and breathe rapidly 

But in the past year, the threats to our daily well-being have been constant. When our fight-or-flight reaction stays on, our bodies can become overexposed to our own stress hormones – putting us at increased risk of many health problems including anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment.  

Managing our stress is critical, especially as we continue to face constant challenges and stressors in our environment due to the pandemic. There are some daily practices that can help:  

  • Eat a healthy diet  
  • Get regular exercise  
  • Build good sleep habits  
  • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing or massage  
  • Make time for hobbies  
  • Keep up with friends  
  • Connect with others in your community, even if virtually  

Ask for help from a mental health professional if needed. The pandemic has introduced a level of constant stress and anxiety that is difficult for even the most well-adjusted among us to handle.  

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has compiled behavioral and mental health resources for you to access online here at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth. 

Members with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan insurance seeking help can find providers, including those participating in telehealth programs, by calling the BCBSM Behavioral Health Services phone number on the back of their member I.D. card. 

Blue Care Network members can call the number on the back of their insurance card, (800) 482-5982 24/7, and get referrals for providers conducting telehealth groups related to COVID-19. The call center clinical team will direct members with information and referrals. 

Pandemic stress isn’t going away any time soon. While the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines holds promise for a more “normal” future, COVID-19 precautions like wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, frequent hand washing and limiting social interactions are still necessary during the vaccination effort.  

Dr. Amy McKenzie, M.D., is a medical director of provider engagement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  

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