COLORADO SPRINGS — Are you feeling more stressed out than usual these days? If you’re not, chances are someone close to you is. Do you believe wearing a mask is important? Do you think government leaders are making the right decisions for your best interest? Should we be sheltering in place or getting back to normal? No matter how you feel about any of these questions, chances are we are all facing one common emotion.
Dr. Fleming says he and his practice are keeping busy these days. “I have seen both more people having depression and anxiety, and I'm seeing patients I have been working with for some time, having more intense symptoms that they're trying to manage.”
The push and pull of the pandemic is creating so many challenges, says Dr. Fleming. “How do I put food on my table? Do I choose to send my kids to school? Do I choose to keep my kids at home.?”
During the early stages of the shutdown, Dr. Fleming says he joked with close friends that in some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic was worse than a zombie apocalypse. “You can't tell who's got what. You can't tell who is sick, or how sick they'll be, you can't tell how much of a personal risk you have. Is it safe to be around my grandchildren? Could I see them at the end of the driveway? Are they welcome to come into my home, should I hug them?”
No matter how you feel about any of the current issues, Dr. Fleming says we should all know that no one knows when life will get back to normal. “We can look at experts, but we all know that none of the experts - whether their economic experts or public health experts - they all have a point of view but we all know none of them have a crystal ball, we all know they're guessing. Not random guesses, they're guessing based on what they know, but where does that leave us? Uncertain.”
As the old saying goes, not knowing is the worst part. “Uncertainty is really hard for us as human beings and right now things are uncertain, economically, politically, socially. What are we supposed to do to protect our health, to protect our children? There are school thoughts - everything is uncertain, and there are no easy answers right now.”
And that uncertainty opens many of us open to deeper waters says Dr. Fleming. “This is a recipe for making any of us anxious, depressed, upset, and angry.”
If that mix of feelings and emotions are ignored or left to simmer, Dr. Fleming says, “It's worse if we don't acknowledge the uncertainty and the fear. If we're trying to avoid uncertainty, that's when we get into conflict and that is what can make people so angry.”
If you're having trouble facing or processing your own emotions right now, Dr. Fleming says the first place to start is acknowledging them - even if it’s simply to yourself. “If you embrace the uncertainty, and say, ‘I'm uncertain, you're uncertain let's make the best of this we can. I'm scared if you do that - that'll impact me this way.’ If you have that attitude, you're less likely to snap. If on the other hand, you're spending all your time and energy saying, this is right, that is wrong, this is scary and this one's safe - if we divide from each other then when something else happens things can escalate very quickly. It'll be a snap - and then a blaze - and then a fire.”
In our next story, Dr. Fleming will talk about specific things we can do to recognize we are more stressed out, and things we can all do that may sound simple but if you take the time to implement them in your life - can bring a new measure of peace to your life.
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