It seems like just yesterday that we were in the beginning stages of the pandemic: lockdowns, Zoom happy hours, binge-watching, and baking bread. What we thought would be two weeks of lockdown have turned into two years of having our lives turned upside down, constant uncertainty, and for most of us, anxiety.
Whether or not you or your children experienced anxiety prior to the pandemic, you have certainly felt the impact of these last two years on your mental health. The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways, but what seems to be the constant factor is the impact on our mental health.
Why has living through a two-year-long pandemic impacted us so much?
Well, simply put: most of us have lived in a constant state of uncertainty around almost every area of our lives. Think about it. In the last two years have you felt uncertain about any of the following: yours and your family’s health? Finances? Job loss or unemployment? Your children’s education? I’m guessing the answer is a resounding “Yes!” When we live in a constant state of uncertainty, unsure of what to expect, we may experience an increase in anxiety. When we are separated from our families or dealing with the loss of loved ones, we may experience grief and loneliness. When we lose our jobs or have a financial crisis, we may feel hopelessness. All of these feelings are normal responses to difficult life circumstances, and add to that the immense pressure of a global pandemic? Life may start to feel overwhelming.
So, what can we do to combat the negatives effects of living in a pandemic?
If you or your children are experiencing anxiety, depression, grief and loss, or other problems as a result of the pandemic, I have good news. You are not powerless to this. The first step to healing is naming our feelings and being kind to ourselves. Remember, you have probably never lived in a pandemic before, so you’re new to this. Have some grace and practice kindness with yourself. How can you do this? Think about what advice you’d give a friend. You’d probably tell them something like, “Don’t worry, you’re doing the best you can. You’ve had a hard time and it’s not your fault.” Speak to yourself like you would speak to a friend.
After naming your emotions and practicing kindness, try some grounding, mindfulness, or gratitude techniques. A simple tool is to sit quietly, perhaps with your eyes closed, and listen to the sounds around you. If your mind wanders to all the little things causing you stress, gently draw yourself back to the sounds. Notice what you feel in your body. Gratitude may look like writing down three things you’re grateful for each day, or telling a friend or family member how much they mean to you. Try small practices like this each day to help keep anxiety and depression at bay.
Remember that anxiety is your friend, not your enemy. (More on this to come in another blog post.) Your anxiety exists to keep you out of danger and to warn you of potential harm. Times when your anxiety does NOT serve you is when it is present even when danger is not. Talk to your anxiety – even if it feels silly—and tell your anxiety that it isn’t needed right now.
Finally, if you are able to access it, go to therapy or counseling. Counselors can provide you and your family with tools to cope with mental health problems. Therapy and counseling are an important part of your overall health. You go to the doctor when there’s a problem with your physical health, so why not see a therapist when you’re struggling to be mentally healthy?
Finding an affordable counselor that meets the needs of your family can be a challenge, so be sure to ask good questions about the counselor’s experience, values, and methods of practice.
If you or your child is struggling with life changes during the pandemic, contact me for a free 15-minute consultation to see if we’d be a good counseling fit, and follow my blog for more mental health tips!