Looking Past the Pandemic: COVID-19 and Mental Health
COVID-19 and the Mental Health Fallout
It’s easy to see the impacts that the coronavirus pandemic has had on most external areas of our lives – economic shocks, furloughs and layoffs, loss of social connection, more sedentary lifestyles, and so on. But for all the effects that are clearly visible, there are some that manifest in other ways entirely. One of them – almost always overlooked, but no less important – is the impact of COVID on our mood, mental health, and overall state of mind. In fact, rates of suicide, depression, and anxiety have all risen over the last six months.
How Does COVID-19 Affect Mental Health?
Quarantines, lockdowns, constantly shifting guidelines, and ongoing stress are some of the external factors that play into our ability to cope and feel a sense of normalcy. The pandemic has interfered with almost all aspects of our daily lives, and interrupted many basic human behaviours that we have evolved to react to. The result? We feel disconnected and adrift.
For example, most of us are:
1. Missing Physical Touch and Greetings
Physical distancing has not only affected our interpretation of body language, but many people are now confused about basic human greetings and what is acceptable. Whether we’re going after a handshake or a hug, varying levels of interpersonal comfort make it hard to assess the warmth and appropriateness of a greeting.
2. Feeling Isolated
Social isolation has caused people to avoid situations and events that they might have otherwise attended – and which would have brought joy and happiness to them.
3. Lacking Physical Activity
A very important aspect of people’s mental health is their physical health, and right now, all sports have been affected in some way – and not to mention, most people are spending much more time at home. Children, even very young ones, are unable to play at school like the did before. And in addition, competition is nonexistent without sports (which helps people set goals, and meets social needs).
4. Afraid of Catching the Disease
This metric varies widely by people based on their own health, age, family makeup, exposure to media, etc. However, living in constant fear and stress is also the same as trauma, and overall is a major detriment to one’s mental health.
5. Afraid of Taking A Stance Socially
The rise of misinformation and polarized viewpoints has created plenty of grey areas in our lives, even in the presentation of basic facts. People are so convinced that their own opinions are correct that it causes others to be afraid to dissent – even if the latter feels how many others feel. Conversations become politically charged, with speakers dead set against each other, and those with deeper thoughts are often silenced, causing further isolation.
6. Suffering from "Change Fatigue"
This can be described as an overwhelming sense of tiredness over who is doing what, irritability with daily life, and an exhaustion with trying to get anything accomplished. Most people have a strong desire to return to something resembling normal.
While all of these are important to consider when thinking about your mental health, it’s wise to look a little further. What can we do about them? How can we take active steps toward better mental health in these difficult times?
Building Up Hope and Resilience
There is a term in psychology known as Psychological Capital (or PsyCap), which can be broadly described as one of the resources necessary to grow, face adversity, and gain advantages over your surroundings. It is split into four areas: hope, self-efficacy, resilience, and optimism.
Of these, hope and resilience offer an “antidote” to some of the looming psychological barriers that the pandemic has put up. In this sense, hope is what allows us to identify and pursue a clear way forward, overcoming obstacles to reach our goal; resilience is our ability to “roll with the punches”, improvise new plans when old ones are interrupted, and keep getting up even when things are difficult.
Finding out where you stand in all of these areas can really help to identify which ones might need a boost – ultimately leading to better mental health and coping methods. Learn more about the areas, the self-assessment, and how the assessment scale works at this link.
Find a Mental Health Professional in Calgary
If you’re feeling a bit strained, worn out, or depressed, you’re in the right place. You may not feel like digging too deep by yourself, but our team of licensed therapists and psychologists is here to help (and there’s even some easy steps you can do that take just minutes, but make a big difference).
Let us know what’s going on and we can help you regain a sense of normalcy, calm, and lessened anxiety. Remember, your mental health is just as important as physical health – and when it goes up, the rest of your life will benefit!