Permacrisis is real – here’s how you can manage it.
The term won top spot in Colin’s Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2022, and it pretty much sums up the kind of year it was for many of us. Permacrisis is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.” From the pandemic turned tripledemic and severe weather to economic woes and wars, we’ve certainly had our share of ongoing crises.
“It’s been a tough year – and even longer – for many psychologically,” says Teri Kaczmarek, a psychologist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Fond du Lac, Wis. “It’s not uncommon to feel depressed or anxious, considering the ongoing stress brought on by the traumatic events happening in our lives or even the ones we just hear about.”
Stressful situations can raise our blood pressure, adversely affect our mood and sleep, make our muscles tense up and much more. It’s our body’s innate way of reacting to danger with the fight or flight response. When stress and crisis are continually experienced over time, our bodies are in a more sustained or constant fight or flight response – a permacrisis, causing significant mental and physical health issues.
Even people who usually have a positive outlook or not directly experiencing something traumatic can be affected. Simply hearing about negative events happening to others or in other parts of the world can put us in a permacrisis.
“If you feel this is happening to you, be kind to yourself,” Kaczmarek says. “It’s OK to feel this way. While many crises and stressors are not under your control, there are several things you can do to help cope.”
Kaczmarek offers these tips:
- Be social. Spend time with people you enjoy being with – those you feel comfortable expressing your feelings and who can empathize. Plan some fun activities with them, too, like going out to lunch or for coffee. Laughter can be one of the best medicines. Avoid negative or toxic people and other unhealthy relationships.
- Take a break from screens and the constant barrage of doom-and-gloom news and social posts.
- Get moving. Exercise is good for you both physically and mentally. Go to the gym, play with your kids, or take a walk outside and get some fresh air. Studies show exposure to nature can lower stress and lessen depression.
- Eat healthy meals and snacks. Your body will feel better, and psychologically you’ll feel better, too, knowing you’re taking care of yourself.
- Get enough sleep. Try maintaining a consistent schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
- Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to feel calmer.
- Volunteer or give to a cause. Helping others can lessen depression and reduce blood pressure. Giving to a charity aimed at helping a specific tragedy can also help you feel a little more in control.
- Reach out for help. You don’t need to struggle alone. Connect with a doctor or therapist for professional support.
Looking for a doctor or behavioral health specialist? Find one that’s right for you in Illinois or Wisconsin, or do a virtual visit from home.
About the Author
Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.