We’re over a year into the coronavirus pandemic at this point and the scope of the damage done is beyond words. The cost has been immense no matter how you slice it. The death toll, at over 2 million globally, has been utterly tragic and the economic toll has been astounding in addition to that.
What about mental health? Our sanity? Being a bit stir crazy is one thing but there are deeper issues that are potentially developing given the length of time this all has been going on.
Mental health and coronavirus have not made the best bedfellows.
How Has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impacted Our Mental Health?
Stress is arguably the largest culprit to be aware of in regard to mental health. To put it as straightforward as possible, COVID-19 has been profoundly stress-inducing for just about everyone. High levels of stress can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. So much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put together a document about coping with stress in this time which also points out what living with stress can cause:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
In addition to the many issues, both mental and physical, that accompany stress, the coronavirus has markedly increased anxiety levels. Whether it’s about the health of ourselves or our loved ones, the money in the bank and the ability to buy what we need, anxiety is pervasive in times like these.
The stress and anxiety are exacerbated if you’re among the many whose income has all but disappeared due to the virus and the blow to the economy.
The lack of social interaction that some of us are experiencing due to the isolation is a big one too, we’re social creatures after all and the lack of contact with others is often difficult to cope with. It’s made even more challenging if you’re literally living by yourself through this period. The loneliness can feel utterly relentless.
With that much weight on all of our shoulders, the risk for depression increases dramatically.
Dr. Elizabeth Reichert, The Director of the Pediatric Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Clinic at Stanford University, succinctly put it this way, “the current pandemic has brought many significant changes to how we live each day; our routines have been disrupted, jobs lost, financial stressors incurred, schools and businesses closed, and widespread social distancing efforts to prevent spread and “flatten the curve.” In a matter of days our lives changed dramatically, contributing to a pervasive sense of uncertainty, loss, and isolation for many.
These factors combined increase risk for anxiety and depression. Unsurprisingly, we have seen a rise in levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.”
Add to that the complete uncertainty of when things will get better and you now have compounding issues that are building on top of each other as well as growing more severe with each passing day, week, month, and at this point, year.
Ways to Get Help With Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus
Unfortunately, there is no definitive endpoint to COVID-19, no date on the calendar that we can look forward to and circle as the day that normal returns. We don’t even know what that new normal will look like when we get to it. In other words, there are a lot of unknowns, but one thing that is known is that there are ways to get help with your mental health to make coping with COVID-19 more manageable.