In this series we will be discussing mental health in response to COVID-19. There’s a lot of ways we can open dialog and discern what is within and not within our control at the moment, and how we can better manage our expectations versus the reality of what we’re going through during this time.
Mental health is a phrase that many people associate with “treat-yo-self” or connect it with “someone that’s got issues.” Think back to the 1950s: Even though we started to pay to lie on a sofa at a therapist’s office, generally we have have been taught to not discuss our mental instabilities, let alone our fears, psychological problems, and emotional influx. Some therapy geniuses even thought stabbing an ice-pick into an eye was a cure for trauma (Lobotomy), or that having anxiety or depression meant you were a candidate perfect to be locked up as someone afflicted with schizophrenia.
The world is different now, and though many people live their day to day with mental issues, our new psychological climate during the days of COVID-19 has caused people who have never reported anxiety or depression to be struggling, and the ones who already had it? It feels like the “bad days” are happening every day.
Today, we’re going to touch on a few assessments in the “why” category, and some ways to fight against these feelings, and maybe confront them.
1. IF YOU FEEL PANICKY, YOU’RE NOT ALONE
Consulting with multiple people across all different walks of life, everyone is handling COVID-19 differently. But the one constant that was brought up: the feeling of panic or dread. That tightness in your chest when thinking of stressful situations, not feeling like you can eat or sleep, or an overwhelming need to be in control (overworking, deep cleaning to the point of obsession).
Despite what you may think when that emotion hits you, there isn’t anything “wrong” with you. You may be having an anxiety attack if you find yourself not being able to stay calm or having a hard time catching your breath, and not forming rational thoughts. This, of course, makes it harder to tell yourself that you’re okay, which isn’t helpful at all, I know (sorry).
Knowing that others around you are going through the same things you are may help you to not be so upset with yourself for reacting this way. One of the worst parts of anxiety is feeling shame for having emotions about the thing that’s upsetting you. And while that may seem “crazy” to some, if you really think about it, anxiety and shame go hand in hand. It’s like being embarrassed, but not always knowing exactly what you’re embarrassed about – and it’s constant. And if you get anxiety WHILE being embarrassed, OH BOY.
The point is – it’s okay. You don’t need to beat yourself up for having a reaction to stress. Your fight or flight response is there for a reason, and it’s important to mentally record the things that “trigger” you, or cause you to involuntarily react with anxiety as a response, that way you can either remove said trigger, or acknowledge that “Yes, this is a trigger of mine” and then work to manage it better.
2. YOU PROBABLY NEED MORE VITAMINS
As someone who writes about mental health quite a bit – I share this information with those who may be struggling to get medical instruction, or how to combat seasonal depression on top of your normal medication: take Vitamins, or eat Vitamin-rich foods.
If you’re a Michigan resident, you know we have 4-6 versions of each season, sometimes all in one day. But during the summer months, we soak in a ton of Vitamin D, as well as Vitamin B. During the winter, you’re not getting those same vitamins from the sun, you’re not outdoors much, which can sometimes cause seasonal depression. We, as creatures, need those bumps, especially if we’re Seratonin-deficient.
Now think about being inside all the time. Similar to winter, yeah? But you’re still getting sun by going out to your car, walking into work, driving, but you’re not going to get nearly as much sun when you’re homebound. Following my logic? You more than likely need to up your vitamin intake. Even with going for walks outside, or bike rides, you’re still not getting your minimum, so do yourself a favor and snag some supplements on your next “essentials” store run. I’ve found using Vitamin D and a Vitamin B 12 / Vitamin B Complex tend to work the best.
3. YOUR FOCUS LEVEL IS PROBABLY NOT GREAT RIGHT NOW
As someone who already struggles with time management without a pandemic, this one has been one of the hardest for me: Trying to keep yourself motivated to get your job/task done. This mostly applies to people working from home, or that are essential workers.
Your focus is likely a little off right now. Whether it is your motivation, your focus on a particular topic, not understanding directions, skipping a step, or you are home-schooling your kids at the same time, it should be widely known and expressed that right now is not BUSINESS AS USUAL. It can’t be, because nothing right now is THE USUAL.
We’re in unfamiliar territory, and as individuals, employers, domestic partners, etc., we need to remember to only hold expectation to a certain standard now, as we are living through trauma right now.
4. ACCEPT THAT A FRACTION OF THIS COULD BE OUR “NEW NORMAL”
I’m one of those “old people” that downloaded TikTok and now can’t stop using it. But it drew some inspiration for this story when I came across a video of a girl sitting in her room with downtempo music playing, and asking how our mental health would recover from something like this. An app that teenagers use for fun, and both Millenials and Gen Z’s use for escapism, this girl posed a really important question, and I instantly thought back to September 11th, 2001.
A kind of “truth-telling” party game these days, the ones who lived through 9/11 love to share where they were, what they were doing, what they saw. There’s a little bit of a journalist in all of us, I say. But what we may not realize is as a country, we were impacted so deeply, and trauma caused great repercussions from that event. Heightened airport security, economic fallout, there’s a fear that will again.
Currently, we’re in the midst of the pandemic, so we don’t yet know what the aftermath may be. But at the same time, many of us can already tell some changes may stick. For example, now everyone apparently gets it that they have to wash their hands (wow), but also that everything that we come in contact with during the day rubs off on us – and it could contain a virus. There could be fewer tickets sold to concerts due to spatial and social distancing, some analysts fear concerts could be on hold until 2021. There could be new policies put in place on how to behave in public. We don’t know – but we do know that this will be memorable enough to have created some trauma for younger generations, just as 9/11 did for those that lived through it. Things, it seems like, won’t simply go back to what we knew as our previous normal.
5. BE NICE TO YOURSELF OKAY
This pandemic has brought a lot of things to light, but during this time, if you’re feeling down, upset that you’re not creating 20 hobbies or holding Zoom calls or having social distance trunk hangs with your best girlfriends, that is absolutely okay.
You do not have to be the most productive in a pandemic to somehow win. There is no trophy for best performance during COVID-19, no winning praise for making sure you come out of this pandemic as the best version of yourself. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to breathe, breathe. It may not seem that simple, but trust me, now more than ever, we need to be careful with ourselves.
We’re our own best friend right now – and we need to act like it. Eat, sleep, take breaks, clear your head, and don’t overwork yourself or push too hard during this time if you’re already feeling strained.
That’s not me giving you permission to loaf around, and binge-watch Netflix for the next 48 hours. So now, please get up and shower, you’ll find your rhythm and the next day will dawn again.
Okay Okay Okay Okay Okay Okay
What have you experienced during this event? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Let us know on Facebook in the comments!