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Global Voices: Mental Health Amid a Pandemic

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Published: Monday, 20 Apr 2020 Author: Maddison O’Gradey-Lee

Maddison with The Freemasons NSW & ACT Community Service AwardThe world as we know has completely changed, and it’s normal to feel uneasy, worried and stressed in a time like this. I’ve seen many posts on social media directing people to use this time to learn a new skill and to complete all the jobs you’ve been putting off.  However, this frame of mind can be toxic. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use this time well, but the reality is our bodies are experiencing a trauma and even if we aren’t directly impacted by COVID-19, our minds and bodies are still reacting to trauma. The value of productivity over our own wellbeing needs to stop. 

The complete change of routine, social isolation, inability to carry out daily activities and the all-consuming fear and worry have far-reaching effects on our mental and physical wellbeing. For some, those effects include a loss in productivity, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating and heightened anxiety. These are common effects, which can make completing activities difficult, and we need to accept them as normal. 

COVID-19 hasn’t been described as a traumatic event within the media, but many psychologists are referring to it in those terms. In essence, the words ‘emotional trauma’ are used to convey the emotional experience of a highly stressful and shocking event. This pandemic both shocked the world and has been highly stressful for many as their physical and psychological wellbeing has been threatened. 

The best way to manage a traumatic event is to talk through your emotions and thoughts, which allows you to process what you are experiencing. You can call your friends or family, or use houseparty or facetime to create spaces to talk about how you’re feeling. Incorporate some time to check in on each other during your team meetings. Find ways to have fun, too, such as arranging a virtual game night or cooking a recipe through facetime with a friend. Journaling is another good way to express how you’re feeling, and Lisa Olivera, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has some great prompts. If you feel numb or find it difficult to process your emotions, creating moments of stillness through meditation or mindfulness can help. If you are still really struggling and feel you’re in a crisis, it is vital to reach out to a professional for support. 

Even if COVID-19 hasn’t directly affected you, don’t minimize what you’re feeling. You are still impacted as the world changes around you, and you have the right to feel sad, unmotivated or anxious. You have the right to feel upset about events being cancelled. You have the right to feel stressed about finances if you’ve lost income, and the right to feel stressed if you still have to attend work if you are classified as an essential worker. 

Self-compassion, in its purest form, is treating yourself with kindness—the way you would treat a friend who is going through a tough time.

In the weeks ahead, we need to stay home, keep safe, look out for one another and ourselves by practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion, in its purest form, is treating yourself with kindness—the way you would treat a friend who is going through a tough time. It’s a simple concept but something that can be hard to practice and use in your own life, particularly in times like these. It means creating realistic expectations of how you may feel and what you can do. Now doesn’t have to be the time to learn a new language, it might be for some, but you’re also allowed to rest, spend time watching funny Tik Toks, and filling your day with things you love and that bring you happiness. 

There’s no denying this is a tough time. We are all impacted in different ways, but the way we feel is very similar. So practice self-compassion, connect virtually and talk through what you’re feeling with the people you love. This will pass and we will get through it together, all whilst building resilience!