Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Social distance. Stay home if you can.
As a society, we have been hearing the same handful of instructions for almost two full years. We’ve become familiar with curbside pickup, at-home antigen testing, and Amazon is our new best friend.
If you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and done with it all… You’re not alone. Studies have shown that over time, people are becoming less willing to allow the pandemic to inform their social choices (Franzen, 2021). In addition, there have been clinically significant peritraumatic stress symptoms that have accompanied the outbreak of COVID-19, while depression and anxiety have been on the rise (Lahav, 2020). These could be attributed to fear of being diagnosed with COVID-19, but they could also be attributed to being at higher risk for serious illness and death, losing friends or family members to the virus, reduced social interactions, and/or loneliness (Lahav, 2020).
Putting some of the more polarizing views of the pandemic on the backburner, how can we make sense of the mental health implications of the pandemic? What toll has it taken already? And how can we take care of ourselves in the midst of the continuous stream of trauma, fear, and isolation that comes with it?
Here are just a few of the documented mental health difficulties resulting from the pandemic:
- During the pandemic, 4 out of 10 people in the United States reported anxiety or depression symptoms (Panchal, 2021).
- In 2019, prior to the pandemic, only 1 in 10 people reported anxiety or depression symptoms (Panchal, 2021).
- In addition to depression and anxiety, people are reporting difficulty sleeping, changes in their eating habits, increases in alcohol consumption and substance use, and worsening chronic conditions (Panchal, 2021). Those who were particularly at risk for developing negative substance abuse or mental health consequences during the pandemic are in the following categories: young adults, those who have lost their jobs, parents & children, communities of color, and essential workers (Panchal, 2021).
- Overdose death rates rose in March-May of 2020 (Panchal, 2021), coinciding with the early COVID-19 quarantine and isolation efforts.
The numbers outlined here speak for themselves. We are at a point in our society where the pressure valve is bursting, and we need to find ways (collectively and individually) to let off steam. So, how can we move forward with the uncertainty of the future and the knowledge that this pandemic has been difficult for so many? There are many viable answers to that question, but here are a few things you might consider:
- Connect with one another. According to an article published by Stanford, people who are well-connected have lower levels of anxiety and depression. As a bonus, connected people are also more cooperative, have greater empathy for others, and have higher levels of self-esteem. (Seppala, 2017)
- Know yourself, know your boundaries, and learn how to communicate them well. Does the thought of having a conversation with someone who has different opinions than you give you hives? Consider the possibility that you are giving people too much control over your emotional wellbeing. Learn how to navigate sticky conversations by leading with empathy and trying to find common ground. Respect people’s autonomy over their thoughts, values, and decisions, and ask them to do the same for you.
- Seek treatment if you think you may benefit from some help. Maybe you have some life events to sort through. Maybe you need help learning how to manage overwhelming emotions. Maybe you need medication. Maybe you need someone to talk to who is outside of your community. All of these and more are reason enough to reach out for help.
- Incorporate positivity and gratitude. An article from Harvard about the benefits of thankfulness based on positive psychology research posits that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (Giving thanks can make you happier, 2021) I couldn’t have said it better myself!
- Practice self-care. Self-care looks different for everyone because each of us needs something different to make sure we are sustaining ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A few examples of self-care are; eating a well-rounded meal, going for a walk, meditating for 10 minutes, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, spending time with loved ones, and/or being vulnerable with a person you trust.
Cognitive Behavior Institute offers a wide range of psychological services that can help you through pandemic fatigue, or anything else you may be experiencing. We have experts that work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. We offer inclusive services to diverse populations and have clinicians who specialize in personality disorders, marital conflict, co-parenting, mood disorders, eating disorders, conduct disorders, and much more. We offer our services in-person and via telehealth, and we have a variety of locations for those of you in the Pittsburgh area. If you are in need of help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information at 724-609-5002.
Franzen, A., & Wöhner, F. (2021, December 10). Fatigue during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence of social distancing adherence from a panel study of young adults in Switzerland. PLOS ONE. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261276
Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Health. (2021, August 14). Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
Lahav, Yael. (2020). Psychological distress related to covid-19 – the contribution of continuous traumatic stress. Journal of affective disorders. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.07.141
Panchal, Nirmita. (2021, July 20). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. KFF. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
Seppala, E. (2017, June 28). Connectedness & Health: The science of social connection. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from http://ccare.stanford.edu/uncategorized/connectedness-health-the-science-of-social-connection-infographic/