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You are Not Alone: Feeling foggy and overwhelmed? Here are 3 ways to help

Even the psychiatrist we talked with says he's feeling it right now.

CLEVELAND — It's time to get real.

Have you been feeling burnt out, mentally drained, and exhausted by things that used to be easier to manage pre-pandemic? You are not alone.

We talked with University Hospitals Vice Chair of Psychiatry Dr. Patrick Runnels, who says even he feels it right now.

"If you see someone who looks like they're at their best, deep inside they're either experiencing frustration, anxiety, or depression," Runnels said. "No one is a perfect version of themselves, and the world around us is so uncertain."

But he also has some great tips to work ourselves out of this "COVID brain fog." According to him, one reason we're feeling this way is from no sense of routine, from re-adjusting to back to work lifestyles to changing COVID-19 mandates.

Runnels first recommend finding just a few things to do daily, to keep up a routine.

"A lot of the solution for this can be as simple as ensuring that you're maintaining certain routines while there's a certain amount of change going on around you, and finding the things that ground you," he points out.

This could be as simple as going for walks, or having coffee at home in the morning. Runnels even said he knows some people who work from home and get in the car and drive around the block to mimic driving home, where they used to de-compress.

His second recommendation? Scheduling breaks for yourself.

"A key thing is that you have pre-marked breaks between what one determines as family or social time," he explained." It's also important to have connectiveness with people, so those two things are by far the biggest.

"This is something people often forget. They often balance work and family, then forget to balance their health. But keeping up with exercise, health eating [is important] so that your body is feeling good, and then keeping up with things that feed your mind and your soul."

In those breaks, find something that makes you laugh or smile, anything to help you stay positive. 

That takes us to the third recommendation: staying positive. Runnels says changing your mindset can be a big help.

"Being positive and tuning yourself to positive things actually increases happiness," he pointed out. "Getting in a positive space, finding something funny, commiserating and finding common ground with people, those increase our positivity, and that increases our happiness."

If some of these things are not working for you or a loved one, then it may be time to seek further help. Here are three warning signs Runnels says to look for, if you're feeling that way.

"When you start to feel detached from not just your job [but] from family or loved ones. If you start to feel feelings of guilt or worthlessness or hopelessness, that's more global. If you're starting to notice a lack of motivation in anything in taking care of yourself or eating, those are warning signs that this might not be a weird, uneasy thing, but signs of depression."

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