Now that it’s been a full year since pandemic-related shutdowns and shelter-in-place began, we are all pretty much suffering from what’s been termed “Covid fatigue.” Even the most resilient among us are tired of staying in, cooking and eating all our meals at home, working and going to school online, and trying to stay close to our friends and families via Zoom, Facetime, and social media.
But more than simply feeling grouchy about pandemic restrictions and isolation, some are experiencing more serious mental health issues. Anxiety, insomnia, and simple stress are causing people to turn to everything from alcohol and cannabis to yoga and meditation to cope. The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress outlined quarantine stressors and their psychological effects, among them:
• Frustration and boredom related to insolation and loss of one’s usual routine along with limited social and physical contact with others
• Lack of or delayed information from public health authorities and unclear guidance from health and government officials
• Fears about becoming infected and/or infecting others
• Financial loss
WEED OUT YOUR WORRIES
According to a recent study in Psychiatry Research, worry and stress is associated with substance abuse, and people who used drugs and/or alcohol before the pandemic exhibited the highest levels of worry and fear. The study included 160 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 and found that 6.9 percent of participants started smoking cigarettes during the pandemic while 8.8 percent started drinking alcohol, 5.0 percent started using cannabis, and 4.4 percent started using e-cigarettes. Approximately 5 percent of those surveyed turned to harder drugs.
San Francisco-based dispensary Eaze told the Associated Press (July 13, The New York Times) that first-time purchases of cannabis were up more than 50 percent at the beginning of the pandemic last March. And when the Marina’s Apothecarium moved to curbside pickup, the staff noticed a change in the size of orders, especially gummies. “People are buying them as sleep aids and anxiety,” said one. And most high-end dispensaries sell edibles not only in gummy form, but also THC-enhanced chocolate bars, truffles, cookies, granola bars, and even beverages.
A study from the Journal of Addictive Diseases reported in Forbes (Sept. 25, 2020) that while patients are still using cannabis for chronic pain, autoimmune conditions, and other health concerns, since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a 90-percent increase in cannabis use among study participants with mental health issues.
OHM YOUR WAY TO MINDFULNESS
Those who prefer a more natural form of pandemic-stress relief are turning to meditation and yoga. A January 2021 study from Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry sought to assess the benefits of meditation and yoga on people with heightened anxiety brought about by Covid-19 worries. Meditation, along with yoga, has helped people manage stress and improve overall well-being — often referred to as the mind-body connection. These practices encourage being present and focusing on breath using physical postures and breathing techniques. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out that yoga is often proposed as a nonpharmacological intervention for mental issues such as stress and fear. It has been found effective in reducing perceived stress and can enhance emotional control resulting in improved self-efficiency, self-confidence, and overall quality of life.
Meditation usually refers to a formal practice — either guided or practiced on one’s own — that can calm the mind and provide enhanced awareness of ourselves, our minds, and our environment. Meditation has been practiced for years by people from diverse backgrounds, particularly in Eastern traditions, and it has now spread into Western society. The term “mindfulness” is often mentioned as a benefit of meditation that simply means being aware of the present moment. Both yoga and meditation apps are available to download on smart phones or tablets.
STICK IT TO STRESS
Another ancient form of stress relief comes in the form of acupuncture. According to HealthCMi, the Healthcare Medicine Group, acupuncture treatment sessions and acupoint tapping are effective for the relief of severe anxiety. Two independent investigations confirm the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine for relieving stress, especially among frontline Covid-19 health care workers. There are several acupuncture centers in San Francisco open now, including Double Happiness Health (doublehappinesshealth.com), and San Francisco Community Acupuncture (missionsfca.com), which offers treatments at reduced rates.
Newly opened Redmint (redmint.com), an “urban sanctuary” on Union Street, offers a variety of wellness treatments, including acupuncture, body treatments, skincare and facials, LED light therapy, deep-tissue massage, and virtual services and classes inspired by TCM or traditional Chinese Medicine. Founded by TCM practitioner and entrepreneur Helina Fan, Redmint focuses on the healing power of TCM, which is represented by five elements: fire, wood, metal, and earth and water — to create holistic rituals to help balance the mind-body connection and help with pain and inflammation, stress, insomnia, digestion, headaches, and hormone imbalances. According to Fan, “Redmint opens at a time when people are wanting to take charge of their internal health with holistic self-care rituals that help maintain a vital state of balance through preventative care.”
With more vaccines administered daily, there is light at the end of this long, strange trip we’re on. But if the stress is getting to you, consider combatting it with an untraditional approach to feeling better.