Mental Health Matters in Covid-19
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Mental Health struggles have for a long been given a bad rap, with stigmas attached to it, as a mental health professional, it is a relief to see that this is changing and I look forward to the day when its completely gone.
With Covid-19, there is a little more acceptance that this is a difficult time, that its okay to slow down, that people can be tired, perhaps a bit anxious, that this is possibly a time of Trauma.
In truth, most people will have some for of mental distress in their lives. Some people will have it for most of their lives, and others will have moments of it. Depression and anxiety are the most common experiences. We will all experience some form of trauma/Trauma in our lives - if we accept this, normalise it, then the idea that we can shift things, we can heal and we can heal and grow from it will become acceptable - however, the flip side of this is pressure to heal, which of course can lead to more stigma!
The experiences during Covid-19 is a combination of navigating of unusual and unfamiliar circumstances as well as the awareness that it will bring up things which have already been sitting there - it is a catalyst.
So, whatever the reason, this is a time where seeking help is important.
The early stages during Covid-19 was mostly easy accepted - it was a temporary experience, most of us thought it would be over in three months - we are now aware it will be here for much longer, our lives have changed and will change for a while. There is now a global awareness that this is perhaps here to stay a while. With that there is a global increase in stress levels, and each country will also be experiencing their own stressors, and we all tap into and co-create the consciousness, and it is heavy at the moment - as it should be...
During this time of Covid-19, it is possible that you may experience:
higher levels of anxiety - our mind and body reaction to real of perceived stressful situations, danger or unfamiliar situations. It is a sense of uneasiness, dread, fear, repetitive and persistent thoughts.
depression - a lack of energy, low mood, sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability
Dealing with uncertainty - things are in limbo and uncertain.
a feeling of emptiness - we don't have full access to all that we need, that keeps us filled as humans, our connections are virtual, feeling some emptiness during this time is appropriate
stress - physical or emotional tension, that leaves you feeling frustrated, angry, annoyed. It is your bodies response to demand or a challenge
trauma responses - an initial response after a traumatic event is a freeze response. Trauma is experienced when the the resources a person or a community has is less than is needed for the situation. With trauma, the brain-body system is unable to compete a natural cycle in a difficult situation. The nervous system then becomes stuck. The response can be: hyper-vigilence, anxiety/fear, avoidance, guilt and shame, intrusive thoughts
burnout - emotional exhaustion, cynicism, reduced performance, headaches, stomach-aches, not caring
work related situations - these seem to be in various forms, depending of the work environment, the individual, the roles etc.
grief - most people know someone who has died of Covid-19. Grieving at this stage is difficult. The cultural connections and rituals cannot be observed at this time. To heal from grief takes time, we need to remember the person, we need to be able to rememis, we need to connect and share with others, and then we need to see and find hope in life again.
It could be that if you have worked on things/issues/situations before you may be re-visiting them - our "ghosts" return.
If you have attachment issues (which at least 50% of the population does have) these may be aggravated right now. Attachment issues are most commonly seen through the lens of either a withdrawer - the person who feels they are independent or a pursuer - the person reaches to the other person - checking that the relationship is okay. Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. It begins at birth and continues to grow and shift until we day. We all have an attachment style which is created through our first relationship with our care-givers and can then be influenced through our other significant relationships throughout ourlives. The way we relate and attach to those closest to us, is our attachment style. This can change, and we can create secure-attachments with corrective experiences.
It is also possible that intimate relationships are thriving, while some are falling apart
You could also be feeling hugely productive, satisfied and fulfilled, or have moments of those
So what do we do:
So the first step is taking care of our mental health is what in DBT is called radical acceptance - fully accepting our reality and letting go of the bitterness. It refers to realizing that fighting what is already happening just leads to more pain. In the case of COVID-19 that would mean accepting that its real, that we have to do the practical steps we are advised to, that at the moment our lives have changed, accepting that and finding ways to thrive within these restrictions. It might mean thinking of the scenarios you fear and doing the best to plan for them - the infamous what if...
Given the uncertainty the best thing to do is make decisions and choices based on the information you currently have, knowing that decisions can change
Read some of my other blogs for details on some of the above
acknowledging what is - know that there is an element of most if not all of the above experiences that is normal under this time, the important thing to remember is that you need to be aware of your own nervous system and self-regulate - through meditation, HeartMath, Mindfulness, yoga etc
With my clients I am finding Brainspotting the most powerful modality at the moment. It is flexible and the client is in complete control of the session, allowing and noticing their own mind-body system and going as deep as they need to bring regulation, insight and wisdom, and over-all peace.
I am finding this time comes with space for fun, reflection, healing and self-care and nourishing.
It is also a time when you have to take the utmost care of what your needs are and the needs of those closest to you as well as the awareness of the broader world.
This is a time when the person as a system and in a system for me is a "glaring" reality, and a gentle dance occurs. The thing I have been pondering perhaps is this may mean that the awareness of ones self and ones needs is prominent - taking care of your needs can perhaps also take care of the systems, as we each have different needs, which collectively work together. It is a dance of zooming in and zooming out of needs and perspectives. A time of holding oneself in the palm of ones hands, then those close to you, then the broader community.
seek help for yourself and for your family as none of us have to do this alone, and the more we each work on our self-regulation, the more there is of that for us all to tap into.