Mental Heath post Covid-19
There are so many questions and observations as we live through a time that most of us have never experienced in our lifetime.
Some of us are feeling flat, lonely, bored, or apprehensive. Some are feeling excited as restrictions are lifted.
Some welcome the vaccine with open arms and relief. But some have concerns about the vaccine and the long-term effects. Some ask: Will we need it again in 6 months’ time? Is it wrong to be forced, as some get pressure from others to have it? Can we have freedom of choice, to live as a society?
Many people have felt very lonely, especially those without a partner to have adult conversation or intimate connections with. There have been different experiences of single dating, both negative and positive. On the plus side some people have made
friends, talking about things in common and having a platonic friendship.
Rising rates of suicide
Unfortunately, suicide rates are rising and it’s clear that we need more resources.
In response to this need, I performed an online show about understanding suicide
and I deliver training about this topic. Most people have suffered with some level of anxiety throughout the pandemic. People have been affected differently depending on their work situation, experiences and losses.
We have all experienced loss. In making sense of loss, I refer to the cycle of loss which highlights the seven stages.
Shock – for example, that suddenly there is this virus in our life that we have no control over.
Denial – the disbelief that something that is invisible is controlling our lives.
Anger – the fact that our lives have been disrupted, that you can’t see
your family or your friends, you can’t go on holidays, you can’t have a hug and the list goes on…
Depression – feeling lonely, isolated, loss of hope and sometimes wondering if it is ever going to end.
Bargaining – Some of us have been thinking, ‘if only I was a better person, maybe this would not have happened. Some of us losing loved ones and thinking, ‘why them and not me?
Acceptance – Accepting that this is real and we have to live a certain way.
Accepting difference of opinion.
Hope – Hoping that Covid-19 can be managed so that we can live without fear and live happy lives.
Also, there can be guilt and blame – with some people blaming themselves for passing on the virus. Remember:
‘We are doing our best and that is good enough’
It’s no wonder most of us feel that we are on an emotional roller coaster. Some of us are going from one stage of loss to the next, sometimes experiencing two or three stages at one time. I think most of us have experienced – and continue to experience – mood swings due to the impact this situation is having on our mental health.
What can we do about it? We can learn ways to regulate ourselves and work with our emotions as they surface.
If we are feeling anger, we can find healthy ways to offload it. This can be done through punching a punch bag or using part of a sofa. I use a big part of the sofa that I call the anger cushion.
If we are feeling sad, we can watch movies or listen to music that trigger our sadness and allow ourselves to have a good cry.
Bottling up emotions leads to mental health conditions and it is never too late to try some new ways to offload.
Some people have kept journals where they have written down their thoughts.
This can be another great way to offload.
Last May I could see the seriousness of this pandemic impacting on peoples’ mental health. In response, I developed a Therapeutic Guided Meditation. I am very proud of how it has helped people and continues to do so. For me, that meditation keeps me going as it enables me to have an emotional offload when I need it.
Most of us have spent the last year experiencing fear and of course this will have an impact on our mental health. This does not mean that we must spend the rest of our lives living in fear. But, we can be cautious and take time to assess situations to keep each other safe.
One of the main emotions behind anxiety is fear. We need some level of anxiety to keep us alive. When I did my online show on anxiety last October, I encouraged people to see anxiety differently, to work with it and befriend it.
When we accept these feelings and see how they are trying to protect us, we can then work with them and may have a different outcome. You can purchase a recording of that show from my website if you think it might be helpful.
Regulating your breathing can be a great way of managing anxiety. One technique to help do this is called ‘Rectangular breathing’.
If it helps, you can visualise the shape of a rectangle or draw a rectangle as you breathe in for four and out for five.
We might never be post Covid-19, however, we can learn to live in a world with Covid. This does not mean permanent quarantine. We can live our lives keeping some of the changes already made throughout the last year. Changes like social distancing when needed, wearing masks if needed or if you still want too.
In some countries, people were choosing to wear masks well before the pandemic. We have seen positives from people wearing masks such as lower rates of the flu and how wearing masks has helped some people manage hay fever.
Life continues. This can feel very cruel if you are trapped in the stage of depression. Not only do I professionally know this, but I personally know this as I have been there. Sometimes we really do need to break the overwhelm down and take it day by day, moment by moment and at a pace that suits you.
Kindness and patience
We need to continue to be kind and patient with each other as each one of us will experience Covid-19 differently. We have an amazing resource in our communities that came to life so many times during this pandemic and continues. If you are struggling, I encourage you to talk, talk to someone you trust and for the person listening, to listen to hear and not to respond. Just listen, allow that person to offload how they really feel as this validates and acknowledges their feelings. If you do not have someone with whom you feel can do this, then call the Samaritans on 116123. At Samaritans, there are people who care, trained to listen, and want to be there for you.
Most of us have lost loved ones which for a lot of people has been incredibly difficult. I wonder what your loved one would want for you now. Would they want you to live your life and be happy? Some of us who have lived through this have had near-death experiences. Sometimes near-death experiences can be helpful to remind us that life is not a dress rehearsal; life is now, and it really is what you make of it.
Like most people I have had to adapt how I do my work and live my life. I have been in awe of how parents have homeschooled and adapted to look after their children. In awe of our amazing NHS and Keyworkers. None of us are perfect and it is so important to acknowledge we are doing our best and that is good enough. I also think it is important to acknowledge how far we have
come and our resilience to get through this despite ‘Covid fatigue’.
Humour has been such an important coping mechanism for many of us going through this tough time. Sharing funny quotes like:
“Drink is your enemy”. Jesus said,
“Love your enemy – case closed”!
This can be an opportunity to reflect. What has Covid taught us? Have some of us taken our freedom for granted?
If you are not satisfied with your life, then I really encourage you to think about:
•How do you want your life to be?
•How do you want your new norm to be?
•If you made changes during the pandemic, will they still be helpful to you post-pandemic?
‘Before Covid-19, some people were alive but weren’t actually living’.
Maybe it is time to give yourself permission to live.
Some people have become accustomed to the way we have lived the last year.
Ironically, most introverts have loved this time. In some ways the introverts have taught us extroverts how to take a step back and enjoy the moment. To enjoy the peace and the stillness.
We get to choose our attitude. Sometimes it can be helpful to take on the attitude of your pet. What does your pet think about Covid-19? They do not care! They are probably thinking ‘Where’s my food and give me some love…on my terms – if it’s a cat!
Finding the Fun
During lockdown, my eyesight rapidly deteriorated and I had to succumb to the fact that between using screens all the time and being in my mid-forties, I am getting older and I need glasses. In preparation for my eye test, I anticipated the same questions that the optometrist must ask about 10 times a day. When she asked
’Miss McMahon, how long has it been since your last eye test? I replied, “Must be over 60 years”. She paused, gave me a strange look and then we both laughed!
So here we are, with vaccines in place that will hopefully continue to make Covid-19 more manageable and enable us to live as a social society once again.
We can look forward to all the things we want to do. For me, it’s been great meeting up with friends. Yes, I have been apprehensive, however, I have done my own risk assessment, kept to the guidelines as best I can and decided that I refuse to live my life in fear. When I do get to hug my loved ones that I have not been able to do for over a year – I might never let them go!
More resources and information from Sheila McMahon at www.mindmanagementforyou.com Tamworth based Mental Health Counsellor Sheila McMahon Reg. BACP, FSP,
Comedienne and CEO of Mind Management For You.