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The presentation last week by Dr. Mizyl Damayo with Paradise Behavioral Health on “Stress and Anxiety During COVID-19” could not have been timelier. While some people might refer to their current state-of-mind as COVID Fatigue, Social Distancing Disgust, or Face Mask Fed Up-ed-ness, the COVID-19 pandemic has truly caused serious mental health issues for many.

And it’s important for the business community to understand and be prepared to properly treat these illnesses as well as the physical illnesses associated with the pandemic.

With the holidays upon us, Damayo suggested we first look internally to determine the differences between stress and anxiety. Her graphic of stress was of a bee buzzing around a wary face with its stinger primed and ready. The anxious face was wide-eyed in distressed thought, alone holding its head.

Damayo explained that stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension, which goes away once the situation is resolved. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel angry, frustrated or nervous … and can be either negative or positive.

Just about every head in the room was bobbing when stress examples were confirmed. Work? Check. Finances? Check. Family? Check. Traumatic events? C.H.E.C.K!

With that last example, we’ve added a whole slew of sub-categories because of COVID-19, including acts of violence, pandemic life changes, fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones, fear of losing your job or business, and fear of loss of support and interactions. The stress created as a result of COVID-19 has resulted in the development or worsening of mental health disorders and increased use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

That’s the deep end of stress. The main takeaways were that:

1. Stress affects everyone.

2. Not all stress is bad.

3. Stress is not permanent.

4. Long-term stress can harm your health.

5. Help is available.

But what is anxiety, then? Damayo explained that anxiety is an internal physical or mental response even if there is no immediate threat. Do you want to know my official nonclinical description of anxiety?

World: “Relax. There is nothing going on, there is nothing wrong, and nothing is going to happen to you, anyone, or anything you love or care about.”

Brain: “You can’t fool me, oh yes there is. ALERT. PANIC. HIDE. ALERT.”

The effects of anxiety include life disruptions, sleep disruption, and worsening physical health. It can lead to depression or anxiety disorders. Stress and anxiety together are a dangerous combination, which can also cause or increase tension, uneasiness, excessive worry, sleep issues, body pain, headaches and high blood pressure.

But Damayo encourages everyone to avoid getting to that point by following a few easy guidelines: journaling, meditation, exercise, proper diet, adequate sleep, avoiding substances, connecting with others, and a new one … digital detox. Stay informed about the facts from professionals, but avoid the gossip and sensational, constant news.

And of course, as in any medical situation, always seek professional help when needed. Damayo is board certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine. She has been practicing in Charlotte County for more than 10 years and is the owner and medical director of Paradise Behavioral Health, LLC. Her full presentation can be found at www.paradisebehavioral.com/stress.

The Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce is here for you in so many ways. We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Teri Ashley is the executive director of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, now in its 96th year. She can be reached at 941-627-2222 or at tashley@charlottecountychamber.org.


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