COVID-19 has been a part of our lives for over a year now, creating a tense, unnerving environment that is very unpredictable. While the millions of deaths are clear indicators of the deep impact this virus has had on the world, there’s another way the pandemic is greatly affecting us that isn’t quite as visible.
With the staggering loss of life, economic strife, changes in routines, and limited social interaction, COVID-19 is having a marked effect on people’s mental health. More than 42 percent of people surveyed by the U.S. Census Bureau in December 2020 reported symptoms of anxiety and depression—an increase from 11 percent in 2019. Today, we’re going to explore how the pandemic is affecting mental health, as well as tips for lessening its impact.
How COVID-19 has changed our world:
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended normal life. People have been forced to adapt to a new reality, one very different from their previous reality. The impact of the pandemic has threatened basic survival needs such as employment, income, housing, and food supply. Due to social restrictions, some family members and friends haven’t seen each other in over a year.
Some people have lost loved ones and friends, lost their businesses and jobs, or have had to personally battle the virus. Adults have had to adopt a work-from-home lifestyle, while kids, teens, and young adults have had to adapt to attending school via their computers from home.
Many individuals find themselves living with an unrelenting sense of uncertainty due to the changing nature of this virus and its impact on the world. There’s also the fear of contracting the virus and the hypervigilance required to keep yourself safe.
That’s a lot to deal with—for anyone.
Understanding Trauma When most people hear the word “trauma,” they think of car accidents, violent experiences, or various forms of abuse. The reality is, you don’t have to endure an accident or abuse to experience trauma. Anything that causes you to view the world as a dangerous place or makes you feel unsafe, has the potential to be traumatic and can cause a range of significant symptoms including:
Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
Worsening of chronic health problems
Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety
Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
There’s no doubt that what we’ve all gone through this past year is traumatic. Some people will have experienced more trauma than others during these times, but the uncertainty and fear surrounding the pandemic alone are enough to cause mental health issues in many people. Tips for reducing the mental toll of the pandemic:
While you can’t change what is happening in the world, there are several things you can do to lessen the negative psychological impact of the pandemic. Here are some good options to consider:
Reduce news intake: Reduce your time spent watching, reading, or listening to news stories, as these can create further feelings of fear and uncertainty.
Seek out psychotherapy or counseling: Start working with a therapist, if possible. Therapists are available to meet with you over video from the comfort of your own home.
Connect with your friends and loved ones: Just because we can’t see our loved ones in person doesn’t mean we can’t connect in other ways. Talk with them over the phone, text, or video chat. Openly discuss your feelings and offer each other comfort and support.
Create routines despite the restrictions: Try to create a new daily routine for yourself. Predictable activities relax an overactive nervous system.
Allow yourself to express your feelings: Journaling is an effective, private tool for doing so.
Prioritize self-care: Make time for cooking healthy meals, partaking in activities you enjoy, relaxing, exercising, and other healthy habits.
Be extra kind to yourself: Understand that this is a hard time for everyone and you’re doing the best you can.
Focus on what’s going well: Despite these challenging times, there are almost certainly things that you can be grateful for. Take time to recognize those things daily.
Take it one day at a time If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, it’s important to realize that what you’re feeling is completely normal. Your feelings are a natural reaction to something that is threatening. Take each day as it comes and start incorporating some of the above tips to reduce the psychological impact of these unprecedented times. Life will eventually get back to normal and you’ll be able to look back at this time as a huge demonstration of your resilience and strength.
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this page are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this post is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, including but not limited to the benefits of mental healthcare, wellness and nutrition. It is not intended to provide or be a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for a relationship with a licensed mental health practitioner. Always seek the advice of your therapist, physician or other licensed mental health professional with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional mental health advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page.