Covid and the Mental Health Toll

by Tara Walls, a Doxa counselor.

March 13, 2020 around 8:30 pm. 

My friends and I were having a girl’s night out and we started to see the bits and pieces regarding COVID. Though it was not the first time we heard about it, talk regarding the virus had picked up more. We began to read what the new normal would be. Words and phrases like ‘quarantining’, ‘wearing masks’ and ‘social distancing’ began popping up on our phones. Questions and concerns started to fill our space and turned the ‘fun night out’ into a ‘google search party’ as to what this all meant for us. Unbeknownst to us, that would be our last hangout for months. Just as the virus spread, so did the news and the panic associated with the unknown. 

We are now told to ‘shelter in place’. This method was used to help ‘stop the spread’ and ‘flatten the curve’ of the spiked cases throughout this country, but did it actually work? Questions like ‘How long will this last? ‘When will school & work resume?’ amongst many others, continued unanswered for many weeks. The toll on businesses, healthcare systems and families took a hit and 2 years later, still in this pandemic, we are struggling to recover. This pandemic affected many things, but how did it influence our mental health? 

Sheltering in place and quarantining was a difficult thing for people to do once this pandemic hit. The CDC instructed everyone to isolate themselves from others and though this was helpful for a while, it began to have a negative effect. While social media portrayed many people picking up new hobbies during this time, there were many others struggling to just get out of bed. In my opinion, this was the first time people had to ‘deal’ with things they may have been avoiding. It is so easy to escape it all with work, extracurricular activities and even trips but we couldn’t do any of that. We all had to ‘sit in our stuff’, or all the things that we found to be too uncomfortable to tackle. Two years later, how do we shake this ‘funk’ we’ve found ourselves still in? Well you are just in luck! Here are some tips that helped me during this time that may help you! 

Helpful Tips and Tools

  1. When COVID hit, I was pursuing my Masters degree. Being an extrovert and someone who is not a fan of change, I found it difficult to navigate my own mental health when I could no longer physically attend school. It was much easier to lean on my friends while there but attempting to do this in isolation added more stress to an already heavy academic load. What helped? ZOOM CALLS. Trying to hold even a little bit of normalcy, my classmates and I would host Zoom calls either after class or on the weekends for game nights. 
  2. Graduate school required many long lectures, which meant a lot of sitting. I noticed I was having more pain in my legs and lower back and obviously my ‘step count’ was much lower than usual. When in person, on breaks, my class would go outside and get some fresh air, so I decided to continue this while online. It was so important for me to move around a bit and get some fresh air. Exercising releases endorphins and serotonin. These are natural chemicals that reduce stress and in a way, help us feel happier. During the pandemic, home workouts were a big help and now that gyms have opened up, I encourage you to go! It’ll not only improve your mood, help you move your body, but it will also help you gain accountability partners in being a better version of yourself! 
  3. As mentioned earlier, I am not the biggest fan of change, but this was our ‘new normal’. I was having to adjust to not being around people. My internal world was also changing because it was attempting to adapt, which all felt overwhelming. I knew others were going through the same thing and though a part of me wanted to go inward and not share how I was feeling, I knew it would actually help me more in sharing with others. Transparency and vulnerability are so hard but we were not made to do this life alone. Why suffer in silence when you can lean on those around you and for whatever circumstance, you don’t have someone to lean on, maybe it’s time to look into getting a counselor.
  4. Lastly, and I’m sorry for such a cliche thing to say, but ‘be the change you want to see.’ We all know how tough it’s been since COVID began. Ask yourself, what did you need or desire when it all happened? Did you need a friend? Did you need shelter? Did you need a job? Maybe you simply needed a hug, just some sliver of reassurance that things would be ‘okay’. Whatever you may have needed, I encourage you to do that for someone around you. What helped me during that time, that I continue to do now is checking on people. Everyone needs and desires something, so try, even if you’re having a hard day, to make theirs. Being kind is free and I’m 100% sure it’ll make you feel better, too! 

I hope my words offered even a little bit of help and hope to you, today. Be sure to share these tips and tools with those around you. Schedule a zoom call, go on a walk with a friend, be vulnerable and be the change you want to see! If you are still struggling to find the light at the end of the tunnel, please reach out to us because we would love to help. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

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