Back to Normal? Five Mental Health Lessons Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic

Five Mental Health Lessons Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic

The global Covid-19 pandemic has affected absolutely everyone in some way. While we aren’t past this pandemic and back to “normal,” yet, we are in a state of transition as vaccinations are administered and restrictions are lifted. Hope and healing seem to be on the horizon.

Covid-19 obviously affects one’s physical health, but evidence of increased depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation over the past year shows that this virus’s impact on one’s mental health cannot be ignored.

Mental health has always been a neglected area of public health, perhaps due to the negative stigma that it brings. However, the numbers are staggering: the World Health Organization estimates that close to one billion people are currently living with a mental disorder, three million people die every year from alcohol-related deaths, and one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.

Add in the grief from lost loved ones, job losses, financial stress, stay-at-home orders, remote learning, and social distancing, and you will see how the global Covid-19 pandemic has caused these already alarming numbers to rise even more.

Fortunately, tough times always teach us something, and as we look back over the past year, we can see that the pandemic has taught us some essential mental health lessons.

Environment and Routing Greatly Impact Mental Health

1. Environment and Routine Greatly Impact Mental Health

The pandemic has shown us that when our environment and routines are halted, a shift in mental well-being is sure to follow. This disruption meant most of us were staying home for months at a time with maybe the occasional trip to the grocery store (and seriously, who knew going to the grocery store could be such a highlight?)

Many were working from home and/or homeschooling their children, a recipe for stress. No matter how mentally healthy we were pre-Covid, our environments and routine disruptions came with a toll.

Now that we are peeking out to new starts, we should see that to stay mentally healthy, we need to see how greatly environment and routine influence mental health and be proactive to keep our days structured and our environments positive.

Social Distancing Does Not Mean Social Isolation

2. Social Distancing Does Not Mean Social Isolation

Even though we had to stand at least six feet apart while wearing a mask and may have felt apart from others, we still had opportunities to connect with others through meaningful interactions, even if they were online. Social distancing does not equal, or does not have to equal, social isolation.

Social isolation influences mental (and physical health) through symptoms ranging from depression and anxiety to sleeplessness and reduced immune function. Whether it’s frequent phone calls, emails, texts, or Zoom meetings, interacting with others and developing strong relationships are essential for mental health. Don’t let social distancing turn into a lack of connection.

Practicing Yoga helps in Mental Illnesses

3. A “Coping Tool-Box” is Essential for Mental Health

Throughout the pandemic, maybe you learned coping skills that work well for you. Everyone is different, but here are some mental health “tool-box” tips that are most commonly used to combat depression and anxiety:

  • Exercising
  • Practicing yoga
  • Listening to music/podcasts
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Counseling
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Cooking
  • Diet considerations
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Attending support groups
  • Enjoying Aromatherapy
  • Helping someone else
  • Expressing gratitude

This list is far from exhaustive, but surely you can pick and choose which of these activities may contribute positively to your mental health. Another way to combat anxiety and depression is to see what you can cut out from your life, whether it be too much news/social media or an unhealthy relationship.

The important thing is to keep a list of “coping tools” ready for when you need them.

Online therapy is available and worth it

4. Online Therapy is Available and Worth It.

During the pandemic, face-to-face therapy shifted online, and many people benefited greatly from having this service available. Some people who were seeing therapists in person started meeting with them through Zoom meetings. Others began going to therapy for the first time through an online service provider like Better Help or Talkspace. Better Help, for example, matches its clients with one of 20,000+ licensed therapists.

There are perks to online therapy. First of all, it is convenient and can be done from the comfort of your own space. Not having to commute to an office can be a plus, and messaging therapists at any time is another one. While some therapy sessions will shift back to in-person visits, others will continue to offer services online from here on out.

Nobody is exempt from mental health issues

5. Nobody is Exempt From Mental Health Issues

Perhaps one of the most notable lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that no one is exempt from experiencing mental health issues. Mental health is a continuum, meaning that even “mentally healthy” individuals can experience stress, depression, and anxiety from time to time even if they wouldn’t technically be diagnosed with a mental illness. More importantly, there is no shame in admitting you need help and reaching out.

More and more individuals, like athletes, celebrities, authors, as well as everyday people, are openly discussing their emotional/mental health struggles, which causes the stigma attached to these issues to fade. The goal is to treat mental health with equal importance to physical health, and the future is promising.

Overview of how Covid-19 affects our mental health conditions

The Bottom Line?

The Covid-19 pandemic raged through the world and left people grieving and suffering, sadly, many of these people in silence. However, the mental health lessons learned can long be used and stamped into our daily lives.

If you are experiencing mental health struggles, please reach out to a professional for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you are definitely not alone.

Further Reading/Resources:

Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Covid-19 General Stress and Coping Tools (UW Department of Psychiatry)

Creating Healthy Routines (Mental Health America)

Help for Mental Illnesses (National Institute of Mental Health)

Investing in Mental Health (World Health Organization)

Ted Talks on Mental Health

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