Let's talk about Mental Health! A 3 part Blog Series by Micah Caballes
LONELINESS & ISOLATION IN A PANDEMIC [COVID-19] Not seeing family and friends as often… Online engagements instead of face-to-face interactions… Anxiousness simply going to the grocery store. Don’t these seem all too familiar for us living, breathing and existing in the current pandemic of COVID-19? Let’s break it down even more… experiencing feelings of loneliness, isolation or extreme worry… or battling a lingering [often embedded beyond the surfaces of our everyday lives] fear of when it’ll all end? Or where the status of our world will be in a few weeks, months or even a year from now? These emotions and reasonable questions seem all too familiar. Whilst the harsh reality of COVID-19 remains, the existence of societies’ and communities’ commonality of shared fear also remains. And whilst this ‘fear’ undeniably creeps in amongst the underlying of it all, the sense of our ‘togetherness’ and ‘community’ acts as a silver lining for the hope of all of humanity today.
The apparent rising of mental illness and health issues remains prevalent - an issue in which, unfortunately, is not new to the reality of our world and its everyday people.
Mental Health Awareness Month has definitely taken a greater spotlight in the eyes of many individuals in the light of COVID-19 and its traumatic impacts on us all. We have also seen a significant increase of familial issues [inclusive of domestic violence and abuse in respective homes], consequentially resulting in rapid and alarming mental illness repercussions of depression, anxiety and so forth across all age and developmental stages.
Whilst COVID-19 itself has highlighted recent Mental Illness detrimental impacts, an evoking question to ponder on and ask ourselves is - did it take a global pandemic for ‘an even greater awareness of Mental Health & Illness’ to fully take place? This question pierces the reality of Mental Health issues in today’s ever-evolving society… and whilst its harsh prevalence is accentuated as of this current 2020 pandemic, improvement regarding its prevention decline remains. It is, however, not questionable that the overall increased attention of societal’s norms and government services [that are slowly being set in place] are positively contributing to assisting individuals, families, children, adolescents, couples and communities presently effected by Mental Illnesses.
As at the end of the day, awareness is the first, effective step to a world that is kinder to those struggling in such a way.
In this 3 part blog post article, we’ll be looking into tips for mental health self-care, checking in on our loved ones (such as family and friends) who might be going through a tough time, ‘awkward’ conversation starters around Mental Illnesses and what to do and what not to do when approaching someone with might be struggling in such a way. MENTAL HEALTH DURING COVID-19 [PANDEMIC] Common symptoms:
Experiencing shock, denial or disbelief
Anxiety and fear
Withdrawal from others
Confusion, lack of attention, difficulty in concentrating
Anger, frustration, irritability or mood swings
Feelings of hopelessness or sadness
Additionally to this, Taylor (2019) highlights that “psychological reactions to pandemics include maladaptive behaviours, emotional distress and defensive responses”. All of these generalised traumatic event symptoms address the general population, whilst those who are already prone to psychological problems and have pre-existent mental illnesses are especially vulnerable. In one form or another, we’ve all been there… We’ve all experienced loneliness, isolation, doubt and to varying degrees all each to their own, a sense of hopelessness. This reality of humanity’s commonality, irrespective of COVID-19, calls for an even extraordinary appreciation of ‘togetherness’ and action towards ushering a sense of community for one another. So, how can we look out for ourselves, and for others more in the light of COVID-19?
Tips for Loneliness & Isolation in a Pandemic [COVID-19]
1. Keep yourself in check and don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions. How am I doing? Am I feeling hopeless? How am I coping? What am I struggling with most during this traumatic event? Who can I reach out to for help? 2. Increase your means of social connection and interaction, no matter what that may look like for you. Daily phone/FaceTime a friend, choose to show face and audio on Zoom call meetings, organise a small home gathering of family or friends (dependant on your current state/country COVID-19 restrictions), get involved in a new social hobby or community activity (for e.g. a sport, join a local church or religious organisation). 3. Keep your self-care and hygiene in check. Eat, sleep, shower, hydrate. Reminder: Boring self-care is still self-care! 4. Get physically active. Adequate amount of physical activity can help to boost mood and energy levels. Go for a 10 minute walk everyday, aim for a km jogging goal each week, go for a catch-up walk/jog with a family member or friend, take your loved pet for a walk/jog around the neighbourhood, join a new sport/a physical activity enjoyable for you, start with short-yoga sessions, join a gym or start home gym-workouts! 5. Check-in with your family, friends and loved ones. Send a check-in text message, give them a call/FaceTime just to see how they are, organise that long over-due catchup and actually meet up in real life, aim to go beyond the surface “How are you?” ….. “Yeah… I’m good…” in conversations 6. Find things that you enjoy, and do the things that bring you joy!
COMMON MENTAL ILLNESSES & THEIR SYMPTOMS One of the hardest things an individual struggling with a mental illness can battle with is not knowing what to do with their struggles.
The detrimental difficulties of mental health issues can be debilitating in itself to get through the mundane of every day living… such as getting up out of bed, eating a decent meal or even just knowing how to socialise and interact with other people (whether friends or even family).
To whomever may be reading this, such flags may already be arising a feeling of familiarity (or to those who haven’t experienced this, you may be thinking of a family member, friend or loved one right now). Mental Illnesses can be a silent killer… and what is unfortunate about the statistics and numbers of it’s prevalence, is that whilst it’s an illness you don’t necessarily always see manifested on the outside, the mental and psychological torment by which individuals experience on the inside is completely real. Mental health issues and illnesses don’t always come in the form of a spotlighted glamour… it can be slow, secretive and most often… it can be slowly deteriorating under the very surfaces of our very ‘supposed wellbeing’.
Whilst all may seem ‘well’ and ‘dandy’, any un-externalised and unpacked issues can significantly and negatively impact one’s overall, holistic wellbeing and consequentially, one’s way of life. Our brain, mind and thoughts ultimately hold so much power. However, such power can either be, paradoxically, powerful in a positive way, or a negative way. A favourite quote of mine follows: