The Coronavirus pandemic is changing the way people look at themselves and the world around them. It is also affecting the way people evaluate their mental health. As cities and towns begin to reopen to their previous levels, people need to consider how to prepare their mental health after the COVID-19 crisis and effectively manage their mental wellness.
How Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Affected Mental Health?
The coronavirus pandemic did not necessarily cause people to experience new depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues, according to licensed mental health counselor Michelle Pargman. Instead, the crisis likely illuminated or magnified mental wellness issues that people were already dealing with before the pandemic started, but may have gone undiagnosed or untreated.
People are going through “some form of collective trauma” during this challenging time, says Dr. Catherine Jackson, a licensed psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist. People may hear about or know someone who contracted COVID-19 or died from it, Jackson notes. She also points out that the pandemic may cause sleep issues that make it tough for people to function: “A lack of sleep can be traced to many different problems such as difficulty focusing, increased anxiety, and difficulty dealing with anxiety, more irritability, and moodiness, and a lack of sleep can exasperate any existing mental health concerns.”
The 24/7 news coronavirus cycle may contribute to society’s collective trauma associated with the pandemic as well. “So many people are struggling with their mental health right now… Every time you turn on the news, there is another horror story about what is going on with the nation today,” says Kellie Brown, a licensed mental health counselor and owner of Quiet Water Counseling in Florida.
In addition to ongoing coronavirus news, financial worries associated with the pandemic are causing mental wellness issues. People who were furloughed or lost their job during the pandemic are increasingly prone to anxiety, depression, stress, and other issues that impact their mental health.
Along with financial worries, people may remain fearful that they are a threat to others, regardless of whether they have actually been infected by the coronavirus, according to psychologist Dr. Naomi Torres-Mackie of psychology and social justice-focused consultancy Nascent Consulting. There is also a widespread fear that anyone may be a coronavirus carrier who can inadvertently infect others, Torres-Mackie notes. Together, these fears can make it exceedingly challenging for people to return to the lives they once enjoyed.
The need to physically distance and quarantine has impacted the mental wellness of many people globally, too. Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and wellness expert, says she believes that social distancing has caused a “bubble wrap effect” that has contributed to an increase in mental health issues. “Although we are wary of social distancing, we are also afraid that taking off the protective measures (the bubble wrap) we have in place will subject us (and others) to harm,” Manly states. “We cannot yet imagine what the future will hold given that much of the information provided is ambiguous or inconsistent; this causes an increase in both uncertainty and anxiety.”
The Impact of Social Distancing on Mental Health
Most people were initially shocked by social distancing, says Sabriya Dobbins, CEO of mental empowerment retreat and event company Project Passport. But, over the past few months, people have become resigned to social distance to help ward off the spread of the coronavirus. These people are now being asked to go back to their prior state, and the rapid reverse can contribute to resentment, anxiety, and confusion among the general public, Dobbins states.
Physical distancing has forced people to forgo large group activities that they previously enjoyed, like concerts, sports events, and movies. Although coronavirus restrictions are lifting nationwide, social distancing will impact the way people enjoy large group activities in the foreseeable future, according to David Foley, founder of the Unify Cosmos meditation center. “As of this moment, we all don’t know if they will ever be back to normal,” Foley points out. The loss of freedom to attend group events can have severe effects on mental health and may increase the likelihood of sadness, isolation, and other depression symptoms.
There may be cases where people become accustomed to socially distancing themselves from others as well, Brown says. As people continuously social distance, they may unknowingly become comfortable with it. And, over time, it may be difficult for people to readjust to not social distancing. “With social distancing, even though it is hard, many people might be getting used to and liking the isolation, especially if they have a mental health issue,” Brown notes. “At home, you can hide and isolate yourself, try to convince yourself that you are okay. But when social distancing eases, you can’t hide anymore.”
Social distancing can also lead to an imbalance that may persist long after the pandemic ends, wellness consultant Libby Perkins says. This may be because people were encouraged to physically distance themselves from others on account of the crisis, which can be extremely overwhelming. Thus, people need to figure out how to prepare their mental health for a “new normal” or risk ongoing mental wellness issues.
How to Manage Mental Health After the COVID-19 Pandemic
People need to accept the fact that a new normal is going into place, licensed clinical social worker Susan Youngstead states. If people start preparing for the new normal now, they can process their fears and take steps to minimize discomfort during the transition period.
Finding a routine may be beneficial at this unprecedented time, says Wes Cain, president of The Becoming outpatient mental health therapy center. Trying to return to routines like waking up and going to bed around the same time each day and laying out clothes the night before work may help people regain the comfort and stability that they enjoyed with these routines before the pandemic.
Self-care can play a role in developing and maintaining a successful routine and managing stress, anxiety, and other mental wellness issues post-pandemic, licensed professional counselor Sara Makin says. Practicing patience and seeking help during this time frame can also be valuable.
A healthy diet and regular exercise are vital to practicing effective self-care, Manly states. Furthermore, Manly recommends creating a mental health plan, establishing goals, and outlining daily priorities so that people can stay on course with their mental wellness.
People should also try to determine a few things that matter more than anything else in the world and prioritize them going forward, registered psychotherapist Kathleen Courtney recommends. “It’s more important than ever to establish the things that matter to you most … [and] make a plan for making sure you are moving toward those things,” Courtney points out.
How to Re-Engage Safely and Responsibly After the Coronavirus Pandemic
There is a new “social contract” in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Torres-Mackie says, and people need to act and respond to others accordingly. “It will be important to determine your own way of communicating and what you are and are not comfortable with in social situations. It will also be important to begin thinking about how you will ask others about their comfort levels with social contact and practice accepting those things without judgments,” she states.
Slowing and methodically working to address fears associated with returning to a new sense of normalcy is one of the best tools to help manage anxiety in the days and weeks after the crisis, says licensed mental health counselor Katie Lear. She also notes that doing things like engaging in phone or video chats with friends or taking a physically distant walk in a public park can help people get used to social experiences once again.
People may constantly feel unsure about how to re-engage with others safely and responsibly after the pandemic as well. Fortunately, mental wellness services are available, and people should not hesitate to ask for help, according to Adrienne Taal, a content writer for Fulfillment Foundation, an organization that advocates for the mental health of the homeless. “Be aware of the helplines and facilities that cater mental health services,” Taal says. “Spread the information online. It can go a long way!” As we enter the “new normal” phase of the pandemic, be on the lookout for signs that your friends or loved ones may be struggling, and don’t hesitate to share resources such as these helplines.
Explore Treatment Options to Manage Depression Symptoms After the Coronavirus Pandemic
Achieve TMS, the leading provider of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy in the United States, is available to help patients coping with unresolved symptoms of depression caused or exacerbated by the pandemic.
We provide HIPAA-compliant telemedicine appointments for patients pursuing treatment consultations, evaluations, and follow-ups, and daily therapy that follows CDC guidelines. Since insurance companies may experience delays due to the pandemic, we encourage you to begin the insurance approval process right away.
To learn more about TMS therapy, please contact us online, or call or text us today at 877-296-4968.