The pandemic has proved to have a dramatic effect on the mental health of millions of Americans. This includes several related issues, such as post-COVID stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and more. The challenge, however, is that not many people recognize or cannot articulate the changes in mental health that they have experienced since the pandemic began.
We’re going to take a look at the effects of the pandemic, the types of mental health challenges it has presented, and what can be done to begin healing from them. Additionally, we will look at some of the most effective ways to accomplish that healing.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
If you were directly affected by the virus by way of hospitalization, or perhaps a loved one or friend dying from infection, then you have likely suffered a level of trauma from that. There are probably very complex emotions that you may still be working through while also dealing with the intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event, which is one of the hallmarks of PTSD.
The cumulative stress of the COVID outbreak can be seen in nearly everyone that is middle-class or below. Early on, there was a lot of health concerns and financial stress brought on by the lockdowns and quarantines, the fear of contracting the virus, plus those with children faced an entirely new set of challenges and difficulties.
This stress can result in the onset of depressive episodes, feelings of extreme anxiety, fatigue, lack of motivation, and even brain fog. This is all entirely normal for the year that we’ve been through, and these feelings of uncertainty and fear are not uncommon.
Accepting That Things Have Changed
One of the most beneficial ways to understand your mental state is accepting and recognizing that it may be different from before the pandemic. You only have a limited sphere of influence, so remember only to expend mental energy on what you can change or affect. Millions of people are going through the same struggle but realize that most, if not all, will eventually recover and heal.
Make sure you are giving appropriate attention and time to your own daily self-care. You may be surprised at the positive effects it has on your mental health. Dedicate meaningful time, not just a couple of minutes, to things that bring you joy. Hobbies like reading, gardening, and even building Lego models can be immeasurably powerful in helping your mental health to bounce back.
Self-care also extends, however, to reducing activities that wear on your mental health or cause you unneeded stress. While binging your favorite series is relaxing and allows you to zone out for a bit, it can cause you to put off other things, which just manufactures stress that you will need to deal with later. If you don’t feel like cooking one night, don’t force yourself to, just leverage one of many meal replacement shakes, and call it a win.
Additional things you can do to try to reduce the impact of the pandemic on your psyche include meditation & exercise, which can not only help you drop that “quarantine 15”, but help your brain release endorphins and other feel-good neurotransmitters. This will not only help you feel better, boost your metabolism, and look better, but it will help get you in the habit of physical activity if you have fallen out of it.
One of the things you may be missing, if you have never grappled with mental health much before, is a list of healthy coping mechanisms. If you have never needed to develop them, you may be missing a crucial part of your mental wellness.
Work with a counselor or therapist to establish boundaries and learn techniques to help you cope with mental stress. These coping mechanisms can help you with both current and future anxiety or trauma.
Don’t Be Afraid To Open Up
If all else fails, or if you just need some impartial professional guidance, you may want to look into therapy or counseling. This will often allow you to fully open up to the world of professional mental health.
There is occasionally a stigma surrounding mental health, and there is no reason for it, there is no shame in asking for help. While you cannot control whether or not you develop a mental illness, you can control if you ask for help or not.