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:
“Watch your thoughts, because your thoughts become words. Watch your words, because your words become actions. Watch your actions, because your actions become habits. Watch your habits, because your habits become your character… And watch your character, because your character becomes your destiny.”
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with any form of mental health issue, mental illness or just any emotions of loneliness, doubt or hopelessness… I encourage you to know that you are not alone in this all. You may have heard it once, or even twice… or you may have heard it but your embedded disbelief has crept way too deep for you to even think thrice of hearing it again. However, if there is any chance for me to encourage and tug at your heart once again, this is it… You have the breath of life within you, at this very second, on this very day, at this very specific time in the greater, grand timeline of history… for a profound and unimaginable purpose. You’re alive for a reason. You hold strength beyond your own belief. You have an inner-peace with an ability to calm every mental storm. And no matter what situation, season, life event or ‘impossibility’ you may be finding yourself in… my heart encourages you to take heart… to take courage… and to welcome the ‘impossibility’ of seeing hope in the things unseen, to seeing the silver lining in your ‘stuffed up situation’ and to jump in the scary, yet wonderful unknown of the present.
The present itself is a present. It’s an everyday gift given… an everyday opportunity to embrace what has past, to push through what is present, and to look forward to all that is ahead. Even when it may seem ‘impossible’ or too ‘hopeless’ to get through… or if there is absolutely nothing to look forward to, you’re living in the present right now, and your choice to live another day, is another day the world is given an opportunity to experience your significant, purposeful, full life and what you have to offer to it. Even if it may ‘feel’ like you have no significance whatsoever - I will be the one to tell you, today, that you do. People aren’t defined by their story of pain. We are not defined by a mental illness diagnosis… a medication prescription, or merely ‘labelled’ by what’s happened to us in this beautiful (yet often broken) life. However, to question the existence of mental health professionals, research and evidence-based resources is undeniably devaluing the possibility of seeing a world and a people bettered amidst the horrific reality of suffering (whether trauma, abuse, familial issues, domestic violence, divorce, sickness, chronic illness or death of a loved one) in which some individuals experience - and in turn, by which they live with the everyday repercussions of mental health and illness issues. Hence, regardless of whomever you may be as an individual reading this, I encourage… with an ounce of urge, for our current and future generations, for you to allow the reality of mental health issues to not only impact you to ‘listen’ but to consequentially take action, take heed, and take heart in seeing a world that is not okay with merely seeing this prevalent issue simply ‘pass by’.
In the light of this harsh reality, hope remains. Light and life are a possibility, and I deeply express this from personal experiences of living with mental illnesses myself everyday.
Upon founding Thrive Life & Co. (a Mental Health Service/Business), an urgency to raise awareness for Mental Health and Mental Illness rose in my heart. As mentioned above, it is awareness and education that acts as a critical, first step to seeing change take occurrence. Addressing the #DearDSM5 series in which I’ve started on the Thrive Life & Co. social media platforms, I hope to raise a greater awareness for what Mental Illnesses exactly are and the relevant issues that may arise from its impacts. DSM-5 stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [by the American Psychiatric Association] — and whilst mental illnesses and disorders exists, hope undeniably still remains. Micah
My name is Micah. I’m aged 23 and a lover of the beach, reading books and the company of all my family and friends. I founded Thrive Life (Mental Health Service business) in 2020, post-graduating my degree in Social Sciences/Counselling whilst also previously working in the community welfare/social sciences field (particularly children/families). With a passion for working with people, I strive to purpose the foundations of Thrive Life and its team on the pillars of spreading light, life and hope for individuals and their overall wellbeing. Thrive Life exists to raise Mental Health & Illness awareness and to spread the value of holistic wellbeing/approach to health. I’ve also founded Unsilent Survivor, a non-profit organisation aimed as a movement to stop sexual assault, violence and abuse by raising awareness for survivors.
Ethiqué & Co. is an e-commerce business my sister and I have also founded to raise awareness for ethical and sustainable living — that of which we both value in our own lives! We create functional, go-to, trendy every day products bettering your world, and the world around us. Above else, I’m a huge believer in people and the power of community. You can also find me on my YouTube channel, Micah Grace, where I share all things lifestyle, fashion and beauty — all with a hope to create community in it’s sphere!
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