There are a lot of theories and perspectives going around as people have time to think about what is going on. I am being asked “am I going crazy?” And other questions like “is this going to permanently ruin our mental health?” “How do we deal with the trauma?” Or “Is there going to be an increase in PTSD?” Overall, I have been quiet during this pandemic as I feel there are a lot of voices speaking out right now and I did not want to add to the noise. I feel compelled right now to speak up because mental health issues are rising, and my goal is to help people find hope and peace especially in troubled times.
The best thing for our physical body is isolation. The worst thing for our mental and emotional health is isolation. So, let us talk about some of the things that are happening to us during social isolation.
Feeling socially excluded or judged: Our brains are made to be active so if left alone to wander they will go down bunny holes. They can be positive spins or negative ones but the longer we are alone the more that we might go down some dark paths with our thoughts. We look at social media and think “wow look at how the Jones’ are rocking this!” Which leads to thoughts of how we are failing right now. Anywhere we have access to people, either looking out our windows, at the grocery store, zooming with a friend or through a post on social media we start to compare ourselves to what those around us are doing. As that is happening, we start to feel excluded or judged. Which cycles down into a low mood and as it gets out of control can end up in a depression.
We were created to captivate our thoughts. Take control of them and challenge the ones that are not accurate for us. When we are not in isolation this is easier to do because we have others in our lives that are reflecting to us our positive qualities. Harder does not mean impossible. During this time, we can stop ourselves in the middle of our thoughts cycling and ask what is the proof for that? Like thinking we are not doing enough because Suzy painted her whole house during this time and we only managed to stay on top of getting the dishes done. To challenge that thought ask yourself: Do I know Suzy’s whole situation? Realistically, at the end of the day, did I have extra energy to put into another task? You might be comparing yourself to someone who doesn’t work from home while you are still balancing your job, your kids and your housework while doing it all in a confined space!
Outbursts of Emotions: Space is something that we as Canadians are really blessed with. Right now, that has been taken away and there are other people invading our space! Normally we have breaks from our family when we go out of our house either to work or somewhere else. But now we are bored, and they are right there doing their quirky things over and over again. On top of that we are worried about finances, jobs and whether we or someone we love will get sick. That is a perfect recipe for being overwhelmed with emotions.
To help stabilize your emotions, we need to be aware of them. If we think of emotions as tools to help us understand our environment, then we can accept them as a way to help us through this situation. Anger flares when we experience pain, sadness comes when we have experienced a loss, happiness is felt when something great happens to us and the list goes on. When we feel the feeling often, we just react, but stopping ourselves to feel it, then think about it, then act will result in stabilization.
Are we going crazy? Yes, mental health is taking a hit right now. At the same time, I have worked with people who are improving their mental health and becoming healthier than they have ever been during this time. So, its not a time to say, “it is what it is” and give up. It is a time to monitor yourself and if you find you are having low moments or days, its time to step up and get help.