The Everyday Stress Of Surviving A Pandemic

Pandemics can be stressful. At least that’s what I’ve been told; this is my first one.

Fear and anxiety about COVID-19 and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Social distancing can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Wearing a mask; not wearing a mask. Public safety. Personal freedom. I will get sick. I won’t get sick. CDC statistics. My cousin Steve’s statistics. The debate continues.

Those last 89 words are the cause of much of my daily stress. Since we reopened on July 6, I am finding ways to cope with stress in a healthy way. Doing so will make me stronger – emotionally and physically. I recommend that you take a moment and collect your thoughts when your stress is building. Remaining calm can help you focus on the things you can control and not dwell on things you can’t.

Even after reading that sage advice – even after speaking that sage advice – and even after thinking about that sage advice, I hear my wife’s voice saying, “Pottle!” She shortens the “pot calling the kettle black” idiom when I’m guilty of the very thing I’m telling others to adhere to. Basically, she made up a word that sounds nothing like the word “hypocrite.”

I’m blessed to have someone to help balance out my life and keep me from falling into a deep, dark, depressing and destructive psychological COVID hole.

It is normal to feel stressed or overwhelmed during uncertain times. Emotions in response to uncertainty may include anxiety, fear, anger and sadness. You also could feel helpless, discouraged and occasionally out of control.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job or loss of support services you rely on;
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns;
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating;
  • Worsening of chronic health problems;
  • Worsening of mental health conditions;
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances;
  • Trouble focusing on daily activities;
  • Anxiety that turns into feelings of being out of control;
  • Strong feelings that interfere with daily activities;
  • Having emotions that become difficult to manage;
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.

The Importance Of Self-care

What I have learned the past four months is the importance of self-care. Practicing self-care does not mean you are choosing yourself over your loved one. Self-care doesn’t mean that you are selfish.

Self-care is simple. It is taking the time to care about yourself – what I call “a little me time.”

I struggled with that sentiment but soon discovered that taking care of myself is the opposite of being selfish. Then a good friend explained it in terms I could understand. On an airplane, the flight attendants tell us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we help others. Why? If you’re unconscious, you are no good to anyone else. So, absolutely, support others, but take care of yourself first.

During these unprecedented times of self-quarantine and social distancing, we must all take steps to ensure we stay healthy. Experts from the CDC and the Mayo Clinic offered the following advice:

  • Find a healthy balance – Limit the time you listen to news about the virus and instead participate in healthy activities. It’s important to engage in a lifestyle that encourages resilience and a healthy balance between work and home life. I took this to heart. Before the coronavirus, I regularly worked 10-to-12-hour days and still didn’t get everything done. Now I work and, when I get home and after we prepare dinner, I tend to my vegetable and herb garden for an hour or two.
  • Keep perspective – Use reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization to find your information. Being educated can help relieve anxiety and speculation. I’d like to think I’m educated and informed on operating a senior activity center in the midst of a pandemic. I listen to the sage advice of physicians, researchers and public health experts. I don’t just take someone’s word for it based on a Facebook post, what I overhear while filling up the car with gas or what the checker at the grocery store tells me.
  • Take care of your body – Stress can impact many parts of our bodies and can cause shortness of breath, sore muscles and even fatigue. To avoid these side effects, it’s important to take care of your body. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga all can help. The BA Senior Center has five or six exercise classes a day – including four yoga classes during the week. If you can’t come to the Center, our instructor has recommended courses so you can participate at home.
  • Exercise regularly – It’s an important part of staying both physically and mentally healthy. Exercise doesn’t have to consist of a complicated workout routine at the gym. It can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking or biking instead of driving. Daily exercise produces stress-relieving hormones and improves your general health. This is essential and is best done outside before the day gets too hot. Get your heart rate up, whether it is at the Center or at home. Even better, do it with a friend, partner or spouse.
  • Eat healthy foods – It will give your body fuel to exercise. By eating mostly unprocessed foods, you can lower your risk of chronic illness and stabilize your energy and mood. When the pandemic hit, I tried to eat my feelings. I might have eaten 10 pounds of jelly beans in one week in April. Thanks to having vegetables right out my back door and a spouse who loves to cook with me – I’m the sous chef and she’s the chef – eating healthy is easier.
  • Get enough sleep – It’s important in maintaining your physical and mental health. People generally require seven to nine hours of sleep to stay healthy. Turning off your phone and TV about 30 minutes before you go to bed can help you sleep better. Honestly, I have to work on this one. I’m lucky to get five or six hours of sleep a night. I blame it on my wife’s cats – they’re hers, but they like me best.
  • Avoid risky or destructive behaviors – Avoid abusing alcohol or drugs, excessive gambling or ignoring public health recommendations. Check. Check. Check. And check.
  • Spend time outside – Go for a walk in the park, but follow social distancing guidelines. I’ve seen neighbors walking with masks; at the beginning of the pandemic, I made masks at home and passed them out to those who wanted or needed them. We even hang a mask on the front door that we can put on when we go outside or answer the door.

Moving forward, we all need reliable information to understand how best to address our overall health and well-being.

Part of practicing self-care is protecting yourself and others. To that end … wear a mask! You wear a mask to protect others from you – not to protect yourself.

Just do it. That way I won’t get stressed out.

There’s More To Yoga Than You Think

When you think about yoga, do you picture someone sitting on the floor in a pretzel-like position, eyes closed with their fingers together? There’s more to yoga – a lot more!

The yoga classes at the Broken Arrow Senior Center have grown in popularity, and there are two main reasons why. Yoga is probably one of the best exercise practices for mind and body both for men and women. People in our yoga classes are often dedicated to the practice of yoga because it has, without a doubt, improved their overall quality of life. The second reason has to do with the Center’s yoga instructor, Tiffany Tran. We are fortunate to have her on our team. Tiffany has a number of certifications, including level II trauma informed yoga therapy, 40 hour yin yoga, 20 hour hip hop hatha Yoga and 200 hour yoga teacher training. In addition, she currently is working on her 300 hour kundalini training. When she finishes, Tiffany will have attained her 500 hour training – a high standard of training and certification in the world of yoga.

Is taking a yoga class at the Center for you? It probably is, no matter your fitness level because each yoga class Tiffany instructs at the Center is designed just for seniors. Each class is also different and can challenge you wherever you are in terms of fitness. If you find yourself out of step, out of shape or out of patience because of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic or just life, yoga may just be the activity to help you get back in the swing of things. Discover the various types of yoga offered at the Center:

 Yin yoga/Mondays, 11 a.m. to noon

Yin yoga is slow-paced and incorporates the traditional principles of yoga with postures that are held for longer periods of time. Yin yoga offers deeper access to the body, targeting our connective tissues, fascia and ligaments, with the aim of lubricating and protecting our joints. The benefits of yin yoga are that it calms and balances the mind and body, reduces stress and anxiety, increases circulation and improves flexibility and joint mobility.

Chair yoga/Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Chair yoga is practiced sitting in a chair or standing, using a chair for support. It is especially beneficial if you have limited mobility. Yoga is an excellent way for older adults to loosen and stretch painful muscles, reduce stress and improve circulation. It also reduces anxiety, helps lower blood pressure, protects joints and builds strength and balance. The main benefits of chair yoga for seniors include improved flexibility, better concentration, increased strength and reduced joint strain. If practiced weekly, chair yoga for seniors can also lead to better sleep and help with chronic pain from arthritis. By improving strength and flexibility, chair yoga can also help seniors avoid falls.

Soft yoga/Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Gentle or soft yoga is far less strenuous than other forms of yoga. It is less intense, so it can be very useful for people who are not capable of fulfilling the demands of other types of yoga. Soft yoga is especially helpful for seniors who are simply looking for a more relaxed workout. This practice can also be beneficial to those who already are quite fit but who lack the overall flexibility to be able to do some of the more intense yoga poses. Soft yoga is also a good place to start if you are interested in exploring yoga as a form of exercise.

Power yoga/Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Power yoga offers you ultimate fitness benefits, including increasing overall energy; building up stamina, strength and flexibility; mental calmness; and stress relief. The maximum emphasis of power yoga is on strength-building, muscle-building and weight loss. Power yoga is a great way to keep fit and active. It can keep you essentially fit – both physically and mentally. The Center’s power yoga class is designed specifically for seniors.

From Our Members’ Perspective: Adjusting To The New Normal

Shirleyanne

 

Shirleyanne hasn’t been to the Center since March 11. If you know Shirleyanne, being away from the Center hasn’t been easy. She is an extrovert who loves all aspects of being with people – especially “her” people in the crochet group.

“Isolation is not for me,” said Shirleyanne. “I get anxious and depressed when I can’t be social.”

We can all identify with those sentiments, especially these days. If anyone understands why the Center cannot be open for all activities right now, it’s Shirleyanne. After all, she is an immune-suppressed individual as a heart transplant recipient. Contracting COVID-19 could be life-threatening. The group, which normally has 30 to 40 members, is choosing to meet outside at the St. Francis Health Park in Broken Arrow.

“We are not throwing caution to the wind,” she added. “We are using common sense by meeting outside, social distancing, using hand sanitizer and welcoming those that want to wear a mask or not. Not everyone is participating, but that’s OK. We will eventually be back together at the Center.”

Shirleyanne said the energy gained in the short, weekly crochet gettogether has been a game changer for her and others. If you would like to join the crochet group at the park, contact Jean Benzel, the group’s leader, at sbenzelsr@yahoo.com.

 

Rita

Rita decided on a whim to try Limited Exercise the second week the Center began offering fitness classes in July. The class was not in her repertoire of Center activities she attended in the past.

“I wanted to try Limited Exercise to gain some strength back,” Rita noted. “I mow the grass and clean my house, but I know I’ve been sitting more since not coming to the Center on a regular basis.”

Although a little nervous about coming to the Center and trying something new, Rita said she was glad to be back seeing people and being active.

“I felt very safe coming into the building. Everyone wears a mask, has their temperature checked and social distancing was followed,” she noted. “The Centennial room was also very cool, which helped me relax.”

Limited Exercise, she realized, was exactly what she needed to build her strength. Rita said that Gary Siftar, the instructor, led the group with exercises while the class sat in chairs or used a chair for balance.

“The exercises were challenging, but I never felt overwhelmed or discouraged. Gary kept us moving, and, before I knew it, the class was over,” Rita said.

She certainly felt that the class was worthwhile and would help meet her goal of being more active and gaining strength. She admitted, however, there was more to it, which surprised her.

“There’s something about being with a group of people that motivates me,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared to really like exercising. It’s seeing and talking with people and moving with a common goal in mind.”

Will Rita return to the Center and to the class?

“Absolutely! I look forward to it now,” she said.

 

Alan

Talk to Alan and he’ll tell you he is at one-fifth of his “normal.” Onefifth you ask? Another way to look at it: 20% of Alan’s life has returned to pre-virus status, and he is ecstatic. Alan’s 20% of normal is being able to come to the Center to do what he has enjoyed for the last five years, which is tai chi.

“Tai chi is so relaxing,” he said. “I have benefited in mind and body from this form of exercise and, even after all this time, I am still learning and refining my practice. It continues to challenge me, which is something I really enjoy.”

Alan waited to come to the Center until the second week of fitness class offerings, knowing that safety procedures would be in place.

“I felt very comfortable returning once I walked into the building,” he explained.

Social distancing markers on the floor in Centennial and the fact that he didn’t have to touch the sign-in screen, in addition to leaving through a door separate from those entering, are some of the safety measures in place that made him feel at ease. The 80% of what he is currently missing at the Center, such as the fitness room, doesn’t bother Alan.

“I realize that if more activities were offered, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to clean and disinfect all the chairs, tables and items touched to keep everyone safe,” he said. “I have regained some of my routine, and for that I am very thankful. We are in a new normal. We need to take life as it comes these days.”

Nutrition Program Continues

Weekly distribution of frozen and shelf stable foods to seniors will continue during the month of August. Meals can be picked up in the front drive of the Center each Wednesday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. If you are 60 or older and want to take advantage of the program, please call the Tulsa & Creek Counties Senior Nutrition Program at 918-835-4160. Reservations are required and must be made by 11 a.m. the day before pickup.

Nutrition forms are available on the Center’s website at www.baseniors.org. If you haven’t already completed one, bring the completed form with you on the day of pickup. The suggested donation is $2 per meal.

Through the BA Senior Center the Tulsa & Creek County Senior Nutrition served: 2,599 meals to 106 seniors during the month of June.