To many, the Covid-19 global pandemic in 2020 brought (and continues to bring) numerous transitions and adjustments in so many areas of our lives, seemingly all at once and abruptly.
In early 2020, while providing emotional support to the entire US via an “emotional support” crisis hotline for covid-19 and civil unrest, I heard Americans lose their jobs, lose their loved ones, some lost their literal senses as part of post-covid-diagnoses side effects.
Additionally, others lost their homes as a result of losing their financial income because of covid mandates, and some were forced to move in with relatives to help make ends meet. Some people were forced to start new jobs on the brink of a pandemic. At the same time, others stayed isolated and secluded in their own spaces, practicing severe (and sometimes extreme) social distancing that impacted mental health.
Being home for some meant being alone and fighting loneliness. It also meant some people got the opportunity to spend time with themselves and/or recognize whose energy exchange was worth experiencing and absorbing-especially during these –as they like to call it “Unprecedented” times.
Being home more for others also meant being chronically victimized by their abusers/or resorting to excessive use of unhealthy coping skills such as retail therapy, drugs, and/or alcohol. Covid also forced many in their homes to navigate families, schooling, and/or work all at the same time. Covid-19 brought on tough times for a lot of people, so identify your need for mental health support is important before things exacerbate.
As a mental health professional, I always remind my clients that with any life adjustment or transition, anxiety can increase and exacerbate. Now, as a Breath Body and Energy Coach (yoga teacher, reiki practitioner, and psychotherapist), I help my clients somatically understand how anxiety shows up in the body, seemingly as feelings of nervousness and excitement at times.
For those who struggle with mental health diagnoses /or symptoms pre-covid, the pandemic may have exacerbated symptoms that may have manifested in the body psychologically (mental/emotional) and physically or somatically (physical). For others, covid helped to onset symptoms and maybe even allowed people to reflect and recognize their need to improve their mental health hygiene /or mental health needs as well as their relationships with loved ones-especially significant others; after all, we are social being’s.
Covid helped some face the true reality or our true “normalcy.” So, this “new normal” we are forced to face -is not a “new normal.” In fact, it’s what I like to call the “new abnormal.” The more we acknowledge that life as we once knew it is different now, the more we can actually normalize the semi “chaotic-ness” or differentness of our times; thus, the more “normal” we may actually feel about navigating our new world.
What we can additionally normalize is the emotional and social support that may be needed by most when navigating a “post covid” world. Pre-covid, seeking mental health support was still a stigma. I think it’s safe to say that needing mental health support in a “post-covid” world may be essential and no longer as “abnormal,” such as talk therapy or psychotherapy and/or other healing practices.
As a mental health professional, it is my belief that as a provider, it is ok to need support. We must destigmatize this within our own field in addition to outside the field. Personally, I believe it is borderline unethical to not seek professional help if professional mental health or behavioral health provider feels they need mental health support.
Also, I strongly believe that it is our duty to do no harm; as such, we as providers must ensure that we are taking care of our own selves with good mental health hygiene routines, energy protection, and of course, ensuring we seek professional support as well.
But if you’re struggling with navigating your mental health in a “Post-Covid” World, here are some tips below:
Doctors need doctors, too, right? As a therapist, for the first time in our field, we can say we have shared experience with our clients due to 2020 and not feel like we are unethically overly sharing or disclosing.
Let’s face it, our times have certainly changed, and I think that people are going to feel more comfortable talking about their overall mental health needs and how covid might have impacted that because it’s ok!
1. Disconnect to Connect /Digital Detox
Take a time out for yourself and disconnect or detox digitally from social media/devices. Use this time to re-connect to elements and senses and get back to nature, be with the sun, or go for a walk/hike/or play with plants or gardening.
Practice deep breathing in nature by using breathwork, mindful movement, and somatic work to help support your central nervous system, which controls most functions of the body and mind. You can be practicing mindfulness in nature by nature drawing, observing, tuning into the 5 senses, or try a basic breath by placing one hand over your belly and one hand over your heart and just connecting to your natural, normal breath.
Don’t try to alter your breathing at this point. Just notice. Are you a belly breather or a chest breather? Once you’ve connected to breath and body, try to expand and take some deep inhales and exhales.
You can try to do this throughout your day or take longer social media or “screen breaks” throughout the workday and social media detoxes throughout the year.
2. Place Boundaries:
As covid-19 lockdown mandates and restrictions begin to lift and the weather breaks, for those of us on the east coast, be sure to set boundaries with what you will say yes to. It is ok to say no. Before deciding on what social activities you’re going to participate in, be sure to have honest, open communication with relatives and friends about your covid-precaution needs.
It’s ok to inquire if social events will mandate social distancing and/or require mask-wearing. Have these conversations before opting into events or sending in your RSVP. If you’re planning the event, it’s ok to set rules on accommodations, vaccination/or covid-19 test requirements prior to your own social events.
If you’re not ready to have in-person socialization, then continue to Zoom it up, or video chat with your loved ones and support system during these times.
3. Develop a Coping w/ Covid Tool Kit:
If you’re anxious about being around people in public, create a social interaction “coping with covid” tool kit or a list of coping skills/self- soothing or self-care/loving action steps to pull out of your back pocket in times of need when your extrovert social meter runs out in social gatherings.
Trying bringing a stress ball, essential oils, or having a breathing technique readily available when you’re out about. A good book and headphones can also help with social anxiety exacerbations while you’re out. Be sure to add your covid CDC recommended tools as well: mask, hand sanitizer, or gloves-whatever makes you the most comfortable!
You can even have a trusted friend or support person on standby for moments you may need to talk or process interactions or remind you of items in your tool kit.
4. Make Informed Decisions:
If you’re nervous about which vaccine to get, be sure to do your research and ask your providers all the questions you need to be answered before you make a decision if you’re struggling with anxiety related to this. Having all the knowledge may help to ease or alleviate some anxiety and also assist with empowering you to make an informed decision.
4. Let Go
Let go of things you cannot control. You cannot control others’ actions/or beliefs related to covid-19. As such, be sure to just worry about yourself and what you do have control over. Also, understand that you are doing the very best you can with the control you have.
We are not fortune tellers, and often times our anxiety exacerbates from the act of overthinking, catastrophizing, or fortune-telling. Try to stay present and not allow your mind to wander too deep into the future and/or too deep into the past with self-empathy, compassion, and non-judgmental openness-which are the true key components of mindfulness practice. If you’re struggling to sort through letting go or feeling shame, blame, or guilt, see tip #5 below.
6. Seek Support:
Seek mental health support! If there’s one thing about 2020, at this point seeking support and/or mental health treatment needs to be normalized! Let’s put mental health treatment stigmas behind us! There is absolutely NO reason as to why people are not accessing support!
There are plenty of providers now offering remote/virtual options for outpatient therapy, and most are even offering sliding scale rates based on your income and financial situation in a post-covid world.
At one point during the pandemic, behavioral health insurance providers and managed care companies were waiving co-pays for accessing mental health support via your health insurance! There are platforms like Betterhelp.com and Talkspace.com that have also been offering chat/text-based mental health provides for years now. Not only is seeking support normalized but so is getting it virtually!
Additionally, if you’re employed, most employers offer what is called an Employee Assistance Program or package plan that is completely separate from the benefits you enrolled in, where you may have access to a set # of therapy visits at no cost to you!
Check with your Human Resources for additional information and to find out if these free visits extend to your household members as well! You can also contact the back of your insurance card for in-network providers offering remote/telehealth or virtual sessions. And if If you’re balling on a budget on uninsured, check out “sliding scale” providers in your area that may work with your budget.
It’s ok to have patience with yourself during these times. Be sure to check in with yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally during these times, and if you need support, reach out.