Written By: Daniel Shuter, MSW, LSW
How Has COVID-19 Affected Our Mental Health?
The world is experiencing unprecedented times, where personal preferences, our outlets to decompress or express ourselves, and the seemingly normal activities that brought us joy—all have been stripped from us during a wave of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all, some harder than others. With uncertainty, comes fear, and with fear, comes feelings of isolation, sadness, frustration, and mental exhaustion.
Mental health practitioner offices have been filling with an onslaught of new clients, and these practices have been expanding to attempt to meet new client demands. Which begs the question– as evidenced by clinical demand expeditiously climbing– how has the global pandemic impacted our mental health?
Is the Country Experiencing a Mental Health Pandemic?
According to studies as recent as July of 2020 and reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “[US polls find]… the pandemic is increasingly taking an emotional toll, with a majority of U.S. adults (53%) saying that worry and stress related to coronavirus have had a negative impact on their mental health, up from 39% in May.”
Additionally, when taking a deeper look at Gallup’s Annual Health and Healthcare Survey, which began recording data in 2001, an analysis found, “… American’s mental and emotional well-being was lower than ever in 2020.” The conclusion that the year 2020 (as well as 2021) has brought on a new wave of mental health concerns has become very apparent within our nation. Not only have national surveys and polls indicated mental health concerns are on the rise, but more specifically, maladaptive coping mechanisms as well.
“… One in four adults reported drinking more this past year to manage their stress. That rate more than doubled among those who had children between the ages of 5 and 7.” Additionally, the New York Times expanded upon the findings that alcohol consumption significantly increased in 2020– the heart of the pandemic. “Americans increased the frequency of their alcohol consumption by 14 percent compared to a year earlier.”
Beyond alcohol consumption, other forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms also have been on the rise, including over-eating, and under-sleeping, or sleep deprivation. “The psychological damage from the past year has caused sharp declines in physical health, including widespread weight gain and disruptions in sleep.”
This leaves those who are suffering from feelings of depression, anxiety, and alike, wondering what can be done to find some serenity. It also highlights the need for us as a whole to tap into more healthy coping strategies. Individuals today are required to get creative to step out of their blurred lines of work and home life.
Steps to Ease the Pandemic Mental Health Crisis
Here are a few tips that may help bring some peace of mind:
- Be Considerate And Kind To Yourself; today requires a level of acceptance that did not exist prior to Covid-19
- If you want to have that particular meal, treat yourself
- If you want to practice escapism through movies & television, various social media platforms, literature, or other forms of entertainment, it is perfectly normal and there is no judgment attached
- Try to eliminate clutter at home. An open, free, and clean, living space can feel refreshing, and you are being considerate of your needs to feel less confined
- Take care of your physical health by following through on simple hygiene regimens as well as doctor and various health appointments. Being considerate/kind to your body will place you in a better position to find positive energy in your day
- Practice words of affirmation and “benefit finding,” this can bring you to a mental space of gratitude
- Listen to your body and mind, if you need to take a nap, press pause, or take a few minutes to sit in silence during a busy workday—do so
- Take Advantage Of Zoom Or Other Virtual Platforms that can keep you connected to others
- Meet for cards and board games with friends online
- Plan a friendly “catch up” with family, friends, or co-workers
- Share projects like music, arts and crafts, or journaling with others
- Exchange recipes or cooking methods with others
- For those who play virtual games—connect to your online community; joke, laugh, support one another
- Attend virtual performances, concerts, or educational pursuits
- A joy shared is doubled, which is all the more reason to stay connected
- Journal Or Blog
- Writing is a gift—utilize it as a means to take some of the power away from overwhelming thoughts. Pen to paper may be the most effective way
- Share how you feel with the world, given your comfort level. Blogging can be a great way to share where you are at, as others can provide feedback to remind you that you are not alone
- Cook, and cook some more
- The process of cooking is therapeutic in nature; it brings you to the present moment and requires your attention
- It can be fun and exciting to try new recipes and explore your palate
- You have a yummy, finished dish at the end that you can share with those you live with, or virtually
- Healthy eating and cooking from home can boost your physical health, which in turn positively affects your mental health
- Get Exercise
- Some may feel comfortable going to the gym, while others may have workout equipment at home
- Take walks around your neighborhood, or intentionally walk to whatever errand you may need to accomplish
- Jump rope, run in place, or practice bodyweight exercises in the comfort of your home
- Take a bike ride, or rent a Divvy to get to where you are headed
- Whichever way is most comfortable getting some movement in, it can do wonders. Speaking of wonders, fresh air will give your body and mind a reprieve from feeling cooped up
- Acknowledge Progress Towards Normality
- As of April 16, 2021: 127,743,096 (38.5% of the population) 1st dose vaccinations have been administered (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021).
- As of April 16, 2021: 80,609,818 individuals, or 24.3% of the population, are considered fully vaccinated (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021).
- According to findings produced by the CDC, reports by the New York Times, and “consistent with clinical trial data, a two-dose regimen [of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna] prevented 90 percent of infections by two weeks after the second shot.”
- Embrace the unknown. Holding on to hope, and understanding that we are moving closer to normality can lessen our anxieties about the future
- We may not have an exact idea of what everything will look like down the road, but we do know that leaning into one another, and connecting, will bring us a brighter future
- Amidst the uncertainly lies communities coming together to support one another, and actively pursuing solutions for the current pandemic. Understanding that the pandemic has opened up an opportunity to bolster community relations and solidarity can be a helpful outlook to put our concerns to rest
We are all responding to the global pandemic and novel coronavirus the best we can, let’s keep this in mind moving forward. Although mental health concerns are on the rise, let’s also remember there are healthy ways to combat feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and disharmony—it all starts with the willingness to try something different, and tapping into the resources we have at our disposal.
For more information on mental health resources available to you, or for immediate help, please visit here or call your local emergency services.
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in psychotherapy services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.