The Census Household Pulse Survey is a fascinating tool deployed to collect information on how people’s lives have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the surveys in the series — there are many — was done by the National Center for Health Statistics partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The NCHS included questions on the frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms. Surprisingly, New Mexico was ranked third highest in the country for such symptoms.

There are a number of reasons people may feel anxious or depressed, according to the survey, including, job losses, food and housing insecurity ,and health concerns.

Adults with chronic conditions and physical or cognitive disabilities are more than two times as likely as others to report feeling anxiety or depression.

For many people, the pandemic has affected their motivation and has created changes and limitations to their jobs that leave a sense of being less productive.

“I think we are under the mistaken impression that we are on some kind of holding pattern, and when this is over, we can get back to doing things,” said Rebecca Warden Teller, an Albuquerque artist.

She added, “I try to feel good about what I do accomplish. I keep thinking I should be painting. Maybe I’ll get there.”

According to a recent study by the Harvard Business School, titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work,” these feelings of not being productive were attributed by employees who felt they were spending too much time online and in virtual meetings and video calls.

“As an artist, it seems like it would be a dream, having this extra time. So why does it feel so paralyzing?” said Hilary Lorenz, a graphic arts instructor at Long Island University in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has been working virtually since the outbreak last year. Lorenz said she will return to the classroom Feb. 8.

Although she spends her summers working in her visual arts studio in Abiquiú, she said, she did not return to New Mexico in summer 2020.

The adverse effects of increased anxiety and depression can also negatively impact physical health and well-being, according to the research.

It may cause a loss of sleep, overeating, drug and alcohol abuse and other health issues.

Obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions that increase one’s risk for severe illness from COVID-19, with about 40 percent of U.S. adults struggling with obesity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The frequency of alcohol consumption in 2020 was up 14 percent over the same time period in 2019, according to a RAND Corp. report.

The truth is that no one can expect to come out of this once-in-a-century pandemic unruffled.

The University of California Los Angeles Health website has some useful ways to cope.

It recommends these steps to renew your energy and feel more in control:

  • Take care of your body by getting at least seven hours of sleep and maintain a nutritious diet.
  • Limit your news intake. Take a break from the news for a day or two and see if you feel better.
  • Lower your stress through exercise, yoga, nature walks, reading or watching a comedy.
  • Connect with others: Make phone calls, write letters, take a class online or attend an online religious service.
  • Accept your feelings and allow yourself to have them. Stuffing feelings down and ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. If your feelings are overwhelming or all-consuming — and getting in the way of your daily activities — reach out to a health care provider.
  • Try positive “self-talk.” Replace thoughts about acquiring COVID-19 with what you’re doing to stay safe.
  • Create new traditions. You might focus on a hobby such as playing guitar or scrapbooking, or do something for your body such as giving yourself a facial or going for a long run.

Helpful resources from UCLA Health at connect.uclahealth.org include free guided meditations, sample meal plans and tips for starting an exercise program.

Andy Winnegar has spent his career in rehabilitation and is based in Santa Fe as a training associate for the Southwest ADA Center. He can be reached at a@winnegar.com.

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