I’m sure everyone is sick to the teeth of hearing and reading about Covid-19 at this stage, but it is important to take stock and see whether this past year may have affected your mental health, and if so, how.
At the beginning, there was a lot of talk about how everyone could survive, or even thrive, during the restrictions.
We learned to cook, bake, exercise and garden better than ever! We embraced more family time and slowing down. It was felt as if a rest was needed. If you could avoid the virus and keep any anxiety at arm’s length, it was like an odd type of holiday.
One year on, more people have contracted the virus, loved ones have been in hospital or died, jobs have been lost, businesses closed, and stress is on a rollercoaster that has more ups than downs.
Loneliness, grief and fear are three of the most common feelings that people have been experiencing during this pandemic.
Chronic loneliness brought on by social isolation and/or a lack of meaning in life during this pandemic is a concern. Some people have involuntarily found themselves with fewer close connections whilst others deliberately withdrew from the outside world to feel a sense of safety.
Feelings of grief can be the result of the death of a loved one due to Covid-19. Another possibility is that you may be grieving life as it was or how it was supposed to be. You may have missed out on big life events or be feeling unable to plan for future events. As a result it is very normal to be grieving at this time.
We are living in very uncertain times at the moment, and for some, this will trigger fear of the unknown. No one can predict how they or those they love will react to the virus, and this unknown can produce very strong feeling of fear.
Even though there are some similarities in how people may be feeling throughout this crisis, there will also be major differences depending on your own individual circumstances.
A frontline nurse, a pub landlord, a teenager doing online schoolwork, a person with a long-term illness, an employee trying to work from home and a nursing home resident will all experience differences in how they are living through this time and in how it is affecting them. It is important that you recognise where you are at with it all. Don’t make less of your feelings just because they are different from someone else’s.
Also whilst plenty of us have become more anxious during Covid-19, for some, the pandemic has either triggered or amplified more serious mental-health problems. If this is the case for you it is important that you get professional help. Many therapists are still working in person or at the very least, online.
The World Health Organisation has put together a document with recommendations for looking after your mental health during this time. Entitled ‘Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak’ its recommendations are split into different areas, each one targeted to different kinds of people and circumstances, so you should find one that relates to you. Check it out at www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf.
Another good publication with lots of tips is ‘Minding your mood’, which is available under ‘Publications’ at www.gov.ie.