Mental health in the age of COVID-19
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Was it only three weeks ago, that for many of us, life was 'business as usual'?
And now- whether you are a doctor or nurse on the 'front lines', a small business owner facing harsh economic realities, or a college student mourning the loss of friendships and campus- life as we knew it has fundamentally changed.
We know that social distancing is necessary. And yet, in times like these, I think it's easy for so many of us to feel alone.
Whether we're the young adult able to work at home, but single and feeling isolated- the parent newly cobbling together tele-work and homeschooling, and missing 'normal' meetings with coworkers over coffee- or the front-line inpatient physician staving off gripping anxiety each day, yet heading into work despite lack of adequate physical protection- times of crisis and social distancing can reinforce the illusion that no one else quite understands our particular brand of pain.
Be gentle with yourself. These times are unusual, and they will pass. And you are definitely, definitely not alone.
Sometimes, the loneliness that stems from a time of crisis is transient and responds well to small steps. Calling the friend you haven't talked to in 5 years. Stepping outside and taking deep breaths in the fresh air. Making space for meditation, prayer, yoga, music. Reminding yourself that countless others are also facing whatever category of challenge you face, and that any sense of being 'alone' in this pandemic is in fact false.
When layers pile on layers and small steps are not enough
However, sometimes a worldwide crisis only represents one more layer of pain, being added to deeper layers of unhealed pain that were already present.
Maybe the relationship with food that you always knew was a problem, spirals out of control and you find yourself restricting your food intake more and more.
Maybe the anxiety of a changing workplace and changing family life leaves you so overwhelmed that thoughts cross your mind that come from a truly dark place, leaving you startled.
If this is your current reality, please know that help is available. Tele-psychiatry services are effective and confidential. Sometimes truly sharing your pain with another, trained, human being is just the step that is needed to weather a difficult time.
And whether or not you find yourself in need of professional services, please remember- we are truly all in this together. I wish for each survivor of this pandemic to come out of this time of isolation with a fresh awareness of our core values, a heart of gratitude for our truest relationships, and a new amazement at our own incredible capacity for resilience.