Focusing on Mental Health After Covid
Editor’s Note: The following article is comprised of suggestions to improve mental wellbeing, and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Any serious and/or chronic mental illness should be addressed promptly with friends, family or a mental health professional.
Mental health is an essential part of productive, healthy living. It is crucial that we all take the time to focus on ourselves and the state of our emotions, thoughts and feelings. However, of all the issues facing everyday people, discussions around mental health are often scarce and stigmatized. The notion that those suffering from mental illness are dangerous, unhinged, and cannot function in normal society are simply false, and perpetuate the idea that mental health struggles are abnormal and shameful.
Studies show that over 50 million American adults have experienced mental illness, affecting roughly 1 in 5 Americans. Although issues with mental health are quite common, there is still a strong stigma around discussing mental health. According to Psychreg, “A common reason why mental health can be a taboo subject is a fear of appearing weak and vulnerable in front of others.” Unfortunately, this stigma has not gone away as the prevalence of mental illnesses has only been amplified by the Coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing lockdown.
Although mass inoculation brought back a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy, the effects of Covid on our mental wellbeing may linger far longer. As we move into this new time, let’s break the stigmatization of mental health in our country and have open discussions about how we feel, while searching for ways to improve and address our mental health issues.
Long-Term Effects of Covid Fatigue
Back in the beginning of the pandemic, Covid was something new, unexpected and worrisome. Not much was known about how the disease spread, what could prevent it, and how it would affect life. As time went on, these questions began to get answered, yet stress, sadness and anger remained high. Month after month, daily news was filled with despair, confusion, irritability and little hope.
Even though the news around Covid has become far more positive in the United States, that does not undo the months of worry and hardship most endured; nor the continued grim news from other parts of the world racing to vaccinate. It is a certainty that the effects of Covid on our businesses, government and culture will be felt for decades, and the same can be said for the public trauma of seeing normalcy dissolve before our eyes. “Historically, we know that pandemics and other public health crises, much like natural disasters, have a lasting impact,” says chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences Itai Danovitch, MD.
This information should not be viewed as a pessimistic prediction of increased suffering, but as a wake up call to address mental health, especially in a time when millions need efficient, affordable mental wellness care in their lives. Many experts are bracing for the “tail effects” of Covid, “During emergencies, some people take on the mentality of just needing to get through it. When they have, though, the full weight of what they’ve been through can hit.”
It’s clear that many Americans have developed or experienced issues with mental health during the pandemic and even after it, yet what is next? What are ways which individuals can address their or a loved one’s mental health?
Addressing Mental Health in a Post-Covid World
With mental health, it is always important to self-analyze and understand what you or a loved one is feeling. Recognizing mood, thoughts, and triggers are important steps in understanding mental health, along with how to address it efficiently. While mental health issues can be caused by any number of internal and external factors, there are universal activities and practices which help regulate mood and wellbeing.
It has been proven that poor mental health negatively affects physical health, and the opposite is true as well. Mental health can be maintained and even improved with improvements of physical health, incorporating exercise, better eating habits, and (most importantly) adequate sleep into daily life. Physical activity has been proven to “[aid in] the release of hormones which provide an excellent environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also promotes brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in many important cortical areas of the brain.” In other words, exercise is as important for the mind as it is for the body.
Another crucial step in improving mental health is communication. Talking about mental health can be difficult, but it is a crucial way of improving mental wellbeing. Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, taking the time to honestly communicate emotions helps promote healing by fostering a sense of support. While care from close friends and family members can go a long way, some may need to search for professional help for more serious or chronic mental health issues. Help from licensed professionals can be life changing and can help you discover and address underlying issues causing mental health problems.
For many, returning to work and being able to see friends and family members will help lift Covid-induced mental health issues. Yet, it is important to know that this is not the case for everyone, and that lingering mental illness after the pandemic is normal. No two people will address their mental health in the same way, so it is important to know the best ways to improve wellbeing for yourself and those you care for.
With almost half of Americans fully vaccinated, much of the country has returned to normal, ending mask mandates and reopening cities to their full capacities. While this is a cause to celebrate and reclaim our lives, let’s not ignore the fatigue and trauma which the Coronavirus pandemic has created for us all.
To find more ways to improve your or a loved one’s mental health, and destigmatize conversations around it, check out Impactree’s Mental Health Action Hub.