We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for a year now. I’m looking at the calendar and we are quickly coming up to the anniversary of when we had to close the physical practice and moved to 100% online. It makes me grateful that we are back to offering both online and in person services as it promotes better health. As time goes on, we are faced with different challenges than in the beginning. So where are we now in terms of mental health in London?
There appears to be different ways of handling the year long struggle. When the last complete shut down happened at Christmas time, it stole some people’s hope. After all the promises that if we gave up Thanksgiving, we could have Christmas, then to find out that we were still in the same place destroyed the hope of things changing. When hope is lost, depression and anxiety rear up and take hold.
The people who have lost hope are showing symptoms of numbness and just do not want to do anything. They report higher instances of loneliness, negative thoughts, feelings of guilt, lack of enjoyment in activities, and thoughts of suicide. Some have tried to reach out to others to try and connect but they become anxious about the situation or they fear rejection so they stop themselves from trying to connect. While others overcome that fear but when they reach out, they are met with responses that their friend does not understand, or they feel they can not explain what they are going through. Often this leads down a dark path of further isolation. The cycle continues to deepen the symptoms and the negative thoughts become worse which in turn causes them to withdraw more.
Another effect that has happened is an increase in anxiety. This year has been marked by judgement and shame. People have used these two skills to try and make others follow the rules or conform to what they believe should be happening. Criticism happens on social media and in person from both camps, the people who want stricter rules and the ones who want no rules and everything in between. The result is that there is a constant underlying fear running in our heads about safety. There are thoughts about what the neighbors will think or direct comments from friends about how we are not living our lives right in their eyes. This has causes pressure to build up and the following symptoms have appeared: lack of concentration, memory problems, unable to focus, difficulties listening, low tolerance of stress, and impulsivity.
From the isolation has also come an increase in social anxiety. There is a fear of safety while we wait for this pandemic to be under control. Staying away from people has been recommended but it is causing people to think they are losing their social skills. Then when they think about going somewhere or being in contact of others, they experience a surge of anxious thoughts and the fear can overtake them to decide not to interact or engage in the activity. This causes them to withdraw more from friends and loved ones which then can trigger some of the symptoms that were mentioned earlier.
There is one more way that people have been responding to this year. That is one of hope. After a year they have moved from simply surviving this pandemic to thriving in it. There are marked difference in this attitude because they have accepted that we are where we are. They take time to enjoy the good things that have come of this experience and they also take time to grieve the losses. Both are acceptable in their lives and they let their emotions be felt instead of judging them. They look for signs of positive change whether it is about the situation or about daily life. An example of this is that they will look at the vaccines as a positive step forward. Or even look at the change in weather and get excited about spring where they can be involved with more activities or people in the outdoors. They find ways to enjoy the changes, by exploring new hobbies, getting involved in the community, laughing with friends.
As we approach the anniversary, where are you at? Is it time for you to move from surviving to thriving? It is possible but sometimes we need help to get there. If you would like to move towards thriving, we are here to help. Contact us today.
We believe in you.