STRESS! That feeling of physical or emotional tension brought on by our unceasing heat and high humidity, Covid-19, economic uncertainty, social unrest, or perhaps simply a difficult personal or family situation. Whatever the cause, the fallout in our community and across the country is intense.
One crisis can create stress; double, triple, or multiple crises can exacerbate that stress, as we often see today. Manifestation of stress can take several forms: difficulty sleeping or eating, short tempers, depression or sadness, loss of enjoyment in hobbies and leisure activities, or even physical hives and welts. Maybe we all need a vacation, but there are few places to go during Covid-19, and vacations were among the first discretionary items many families cancelled when the pandemic spread and employment suffered.
One thing is certain: humans are social animals. We need connections with others. We thrive in the presence of others. We sympathize and empathize (at least, most people have some level of empathy even if Mr. Trump, famously, does not) with neighbors, family, and friends. Masks and social distancing are antithetical to our fundamental make-up, but they absolutely are required right now. The sooner coronavirus can be controlled and/or defeated, the sooner we can return to those little things that make us human – the touch of a hand, a whisper, a hug, a kiss. Enough of ephemeral elbow taps and fist bumps; we all crave a return to those physical connections that lift spirits and provide solace.
So, what can we do to relieve stress and reduce tension? If laughter is supposed to be the best medicine, find something humorous that makes you chuckle. Doesn’t have to be a belly laugh, but a good laugh, even about little things each day, might help. Turn off the television and other devices! Technology allows information to swirl around us 24/7, with “breaking news” and new opinions as prevalent as advertisements for beer, drugs, insurance and soon, political candidates. Information overload adds to stress; feels so good to turn it off for awhile. Take a walk in a park or on a woodsy trail. Inhale the fragrance of pine needles or honeysuckle, and look closely for the butterflies and bees, and other critters, that are critical parts of our ecosystem. During a fierce thunderstorm last week, my daughter noticed a tiny frog, perhaps an inch-and-a-half long from toepad to toepad, carefully crawling up the sliding glass door. It was six or eight feet to the top of the glass, and we watched the tiny creature for at least 15 minutes until he/she reached the top and stopped. It was almost as if he/she suddenly realized he/she was eight feet above the ground and had no Plan B. That little frog seemed to represent the dilemma facing many people today – a new adventure in unfamiliar surroundings, but persevering nonetheless, and not backing down. I don’t know what happened to that little frog, but I remember his/her adventure, and his/her resilience, in a fierce storm.
In the past, resilience was defined as the ability to bounce back quickly. The current stressors probably are not of short duration (except for the heat), finding and strengthening our inner resilience, including new ways of meeting challenges, is part of what makes us human. We can do this!
Note: The link to the virtual summer concerts has just been posted. Log on to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/performances for information about upcoming performances.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.