By Catherine Nitelet-Vedder, Wellness Educator

Interview with Dr. Peter Collori, MD, a Psychiatry Specialist based in Hawaii Kai with over 18 years of experience in the medical field and graduated from Loyola University of Chicago Stritch School Of Medicine in 2002.

How can people deal with the cumulative stress experienced since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic?

As far as I can tell, the only kind of position that we should actually have must be rational with grounded facts. And I’m not necessarily talking about facts on Coronavirus but more like “How are you feeling today? What are the kids up to? What have you been doing with yourself during the day?” Having conversations about real things, with real people where you can see their faces and you can see their emotional expressions; grounding in that. The second piece is finding what is really important to us beyond our political agendas, beyond our pocketbook… We need to think about what matters in this world and begin to live that. If you value honesty, live that way. If you value connections with other people, live that way. Act sane, be connected to people and start a new kind of contagion.

Some people have a harder time dealing with this situation…

The worst factor is isolation, those people are having the hardest time. I was talking to a single guy, not in a relationship, originally from the mainland. He moved here just prior to the pandemic, he works online and is stuck in a 300 square foot apartment. The guy has never use drugs in his life, he is an athlete, lives a very healthy lifestyle but he said to me, “If I could get my hand on some heroin right now, I would use it because I cannot stand sitting in front of my tv and watching Netflix all day long, I’m going out of my skull! I’m finding things to obsess over, I’m shopping on Amazon and buying stuff I don’t need!” Getting involved in little projects, trying to fix stuff around the house, taking care of your yard can be useful and productive but sometimes, we can get caught up into other sorts of obsessions. What all addictions tend to do is attempt to replace what we genuinely need. And what we need right now is human interactions.

What is the difference between the stress employees experience right now and usual burnouts?

I think burnouts are actually very similar. I haven’t cracked the code on this yet but my understanding on burnout is when life becomes like the movie ‘Groundhog Day’. What happens is it becomes pointless, meaningless. And if something is meaningless it’s not very compelling. People think, “Why am I bothering with any of this? I get up, I go to work, I make money, I pay the bills so I can have my apartment so I can sleep in it so I can go to work so I can pay the bills and have an apartment to sleep in… ” Why?! It is horrible! So we get caught in a little bitty loop, we go round and round and part of the burnout comes from getting on that hamster wheel because we think you are getting somewhere but at some point, we realize we are just running to be running and we begin to experience fatigue.

How can we apply that human interaction in the workplace now that a lot of people are telecommuting?

I think it really depends on your work situation. I know somebody who is a yoga instructor who is teaching online. She said the first and last 10 minutes are just people chatting in the virtual class. She leaves it open, she just makes the actual class shorter to give time for all those people to gather and talk to each other. I think it’s important to make space for that, providing that you are in a position where you can do it and have colleagues that are interested in that.

How do you think people can take care of themselves during this time?

Get out of your own head. There are rabbit holes you just don’t want to go really deeply down. And if you go down a rabbit hole, you want to come back to the surface and have a conversation with somebody about it. Have as many conversations with as many people as you can, particularly people that you trust and feel safe around. And if you don’t have enough of those relationships, find more because you are not alone. There are a lot of people right now that are lonely.

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