Mental Health in a Covid-19 World
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Before the global pandemic, when things were a bit more normal, staying mentally healthy and coping with mental illness was hard enough. But now, with social isolation, uncertainties surrounding health and safety, and general fears of illness, it has gotten a whole lot harder.
In fact, 53% of people in the US say that the Covid-19 pandemic has had negative repercussions on their mental health. And the amount of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression has gone from just over one in ten in 2019 to more than one in three— that’s a third of the population— in 2020.
There are a lot of reasons for this increase, and now more than ever it is important to do everything we can to keep ourselves mentally fit. So let’s take a look at some of the reasons behind the decline in mental health, and some things we can do about it.
It’s a stressful time, both because of the pandemic and other reasons. Being isolated from others and not knowing what may happen can create a lot of stress for us. And this stress has negative effects on our physical and mental health. It can cause changes in sleep, appetite, mood, and even exacerbate the effects of other health conditions.
Sadly, there’s not much we can do to eliminate sources of stress right now. But there are some things you can do to manage it. Stress management is different for everyone, but healthy methods can include anything from coloring and reading to jogging and martial arts.
One of the best ways to cope with stress, and keep yourself mentally well, is to see a therapist. You don’t have to have a mental illness to see a therapist. Anyone who is stressed, upset, or just wants to talk about their feelings could benefit from it. So don’t hesitate to find one to help you.
If you struggle with mental illness, it is vital to keep an eye on your symptoms. Know what might happen if they get worse, and have a plan. This way, if you notice a worsening of your symptoms, you can address it before it gets too bad.
Body and mind
Keeping yourself mentally healthy means keeping your physical health in good shape. This doesn’t mean you have to have perfectly sculpted abs— rather, just take care of your body. An unhealthy body can be detrimental to mental health, and a healthy body can do the exact opposite.
Obviously, not getting sick is a big part of this. Being sick makes you feel bad, which isn’t good for your mental health. So do everything you can to avoid getting sick— wear a mask, stay distanced, get your flu shot, and keep your immune system strong.
Exercise can be very helpful, especially for symptoms of depression, as the adrenaline boosts mood. Getting outside is important, no matter how you do it. Packing yourself with better foods, like proteins, vegetables, and grains, can improve various facets of mood. And, of course, stay hydrated!
Isolation and depression
Social distancing, and to an extent isolation from others, is vital right now to keep us all healthy. But that kind of isolation from other humans can be devastating on symptoms of depression. The pandemic has worsened symptoms of depression for those suffering from it, and has even caused new symptoms. In short, Covid is giving people depression, as if it wasn’t bad enough already.
And it makes sense. Many people with depression feel worse when they are alone, especially for long periods of time. And many of us have been virtually alone for nearly nine months now.
There are ways to mitigate these effects, though. Again, talking to a therapist is a great idea. But you can also try to spend more time with others— in socially distanced ways, of course. Zoom calls, virtual movie nights, social-distanced picnics, the list goes on and on. There are dozens of fun ways for you to “see” other people right now.
Of course, this isn’t a magic fix. The symptoms will still be there, but having more connections may help alleviate them. Talk to your friends, therapists, and yourself to figure out the best ways for you to manage your symptoms.
Viruses and sickness and bears, oh my!
One of the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health is the huge increase of feelings of anxiety and fear. There is so much uncertainty surrounding this crisis that many people feel afraid of what may happen to them and their loved ones. And those who suffer from anxiety can find it very hard to cope.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay informed. Hunt down the facts from reputable sources. The more you know about what’s going on, the less fear you may feel about the unknown.
Of course, it may also seem like there’s too much information. So don’t be afraid to take breaks from the news if you need to. It’s important to stay informed, but if it feels like too much, take a step back and enjoy a nice movie. You can always catch up later.
If you live with an anxiety disorder, or have new feelings of anxiety like many people do right now, figure out what’s best for you. Again, consult a professional, and see if you could benefit from medication. Make a plan for dealing with anxiety attacks— this could be a person you talk to, a box of comforting items, or any other item or activity that will help you feel better.
For the kids
The youngest and oldest of us have been hit hardest by this pandemic. The oldest because they are most at risk for serious illness, and the youngest because of the disruptions to their schooling and mental health.
First, let’s talk about school. Many students struggle with online schooling but, sadly, that is what is necessary right now. It can create feelings of anxiety surrounding a fear of not doing well. In fact, 67% of parents are worried that their kids may fall behind in online school.
Not being in school also means kids may not be receiving access to key resources and treatments. For many kids, school guidance counselors are the first ones to recognize that they need help, and their point of access to get that help. Without those resources, there may be detrimental effects on students’ mental health.
And of course, teenagers are already at higher risk when it comes to mental illness. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers globally, and with the stress of school and adolescence, mental illness can hit hard.
So it is important, now more than ever, to talk to your kids. Encourage them to be open and honest with you, and do the same with them. Ask them if they need help with school or anything else. And, if you see any troubling signs of mental illness, suicidal ideation, or worsening mental health, don’t be afraid to get them help!
Clearly, there’s no magic wand to make everyone have good mental health, or get rid of mental illness. And we can’t deny that the pandemic, and the world it has created, has made it a lot harder to deal with these things. But if we work together, listen to ourselves, and ask for help when we need it, we can all come out the other side of this thing with better mental health and ways of coping with our stress and illness.