COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus, has reached every continent--with the exception of Antarctica--in less than six months. That means that day-to-day life has changed for just about everyone on Earth, and rapidly. It’s difficult to not to give into the anxiety, panic and despair that words like pandemic and quarantine can inspire, but there are ways you can help yourself—and the people in your life—get through this ordeal.
Most of the country has been sheltering-in-place at home since mid-March and while that comes with perks (more Netflix, an excuse to order delivery, no traffic, working in your pajamas!), it’s been a difficult experience for many. If you’re feeling depression or anxiety about the Coronavirus or because you’ve lost your job, are separated from family and friends, or have suddenly found yourself trying to work from home and also homeschool your kids, you’re not alone. Even before the pandemic, 20% of Americans—or 1 in 5—reported suffering from poor mental health. Now that number has more than doubled, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
If You’ve Lost Your Job
If you’ve been temporarily laid off, you might be feeling anxiety about bills and other expenses, and wondering what work’s going to be like when you return. And If you’re one of the tens of thousands of Americans who have been permanently laid off, then you might be spending a lot of time worrying about how you’ll support yourself or your family—and what re-entering the workforce might look like in this “new normal”.
Studies have shown that job loss can lead to not only anxiety, but low self-esteem and depression. It’s normal to feel self-doubt, hopelessness and fear.
If the Social Isolation is Getting to You
Social distancing has become a way of life. If you’ve been furloughed from work and have no other obligations, maybe it seemed like a vacation at first—sleeping in, sipping a cup of coffee over a good book, playing video games, or pretty much doing whatever you want. But now that most of the country’s been shut down for six weeks, the isolation might be getting to you. And it’s alright if you’re feeling moody, depressed or lonely.
If Your Routine Has Been Disrupted
Sometimes routine can be boring. A day seems like just any other. But routines have been shown to reduce stress—and they allow us to achieve goals and make time for the things and people we care about. Many of us probably don’t think too much about our routines until they’re disrupted. Adults who are either working from home or are out of work due to Coronavirus are learning this right now. And children and adolescents who are out of school are hit even harder. Not only are they separated from their friends--an especially important social group for adolescents—but studies have shown that schools provide up to 80% of mental healthcare for children and teens. For both adults and youth, routine disruption can lead to stress and anxiety or, on the other hand, depression and apathy.
So What Can You Do?
Gratitude can also have a powerful effect on us. It refocuses our energy from pursuing things that we don’t have to appreciating the things that we do have. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative feelings caused by your current situation, but gratitude can help. A quick and easy way to implement this into your life is to download a gratitude app on your smartphone. There are several available in the Apple and Google Play stores. One of the most popular mental healthcare apps, Wysa, has a daily gratitude feature built in. You can schedule a daily reminder to express what you’re grateful for. Gratitude has been shown to improve overall physical and mental health, as well as sleep, relationships and self-esteem.
If social isolation is taking its toll on you, try out some of these suggestions to feel better today! And don’t forget to take the pledge to choose empowerment over shame and take the stigma out of mental health care.