The past couple of years have been incredibly trying for people all around the globe and, unsurprisingly, the challenges of 2020 and 2021 brought with them a marked increase in people struggling with their mental health. According to a report from the Center for Disease Control the pandemic was the source of psychosocial stressors for adults in the United States including “family health, feelings of isolation or loneliness, worry about getting ill from COVID-19 or infecting others, worry about the death of a loved one or persons dying, workplace COVID-19 exposure, and stigma or discrimination from being blamed for spreading COVID-19.”
These statistics prove that rather than the severe mental illness that has historically marked public discussions around mental health, challenges with common conditions such as depression and anxiety need to be de-stigmatized and addressed in public forums. So, as we emerge from the pandemic, what better time to reboot how we think about mental health?
The Impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health
The pandemic drove home something we all already knew, that while mental health conditions don’t discriminate, certain demographics are more likely to suffer with poor mental health. The same 2021 report from the CDC states that “persistent systemic social inequities and discrimination related to living conditions and work environments,” the same that contribute to disparities in diagnosing underlying physical health conditions, “can worsen stress and associated mental health concerns” stemming from COVID-19.
Therefore, it’s not only people who had a pre-existing mental health condition that struggled during the pandemic, but also those facing uncertainty, unemployment or poverty who may not have suffered these sorts of mental health challenges in the past. As a result, this population is most likely less prepared to face these unexpected challenges. Because stigmatization around issues of psychological issues is still so common, there is the likelihood that the mental strain caused by uncertainty, despair, financial woes, social isolation, and sometimes the death or illness of loved ones, will likely outlast the virus.
It seems then, as we come out of the pandemic, there has never been a better time to reboot the ways in which we view mental health.
Changing How We View Mental Health
In a feature written for NBC News, Nicole Spector, a reporter and mental health advocate, explains that because physical health is more straightforward, tangible and acceptable to discuss than mental health. A decade ago, she says, “I wouldn’t have dreamed about being able to write pieces” focusing on mental health for a “major news outlet… they just weren’t topical.” But times are changing.
With celebrities such as Chrissy Tiegen, Demi Lovato, Dan Reynolds and Adele willing to speak openly and honestly about their own mental health challenges, the stigmas that are often attached to people in this position such as being “weak” or simply “not trying hard enough” to be “normal” are fading. Anyone can struggle with their mental health, a fact which many people have become acutely aware of recently. The conditions imposed on us by the pandemic have shown us, as a society, that under highly stressful conditions anyone’s mental health is susceptible to degrees of degradation.
Rather than thinking of mental health in binary terms, it’s helpful to consider it as a spectrum that we all fit into, and our place on this spectrum can change at different points in our life. But the challenge, as laid out in Spector’s article, is that “we continue to see mental healthcare as a response to problems, rather than something recommended for everyone as a way to improve life in general.” However, normalizing the discussion around mental health as well as governments and media outlets focusing more attention on the issue is helping to “bring it out of the shadows.”
Methods for Rebooting Our Mental Health
“Throughout the pandemic, we have become more open to sharing our feelings and talking about sadness, illness and distress. There are indications that this may be helping shift attitudes around mental health to encourage anyone struggling to speak up,” explains Helen Dickey, journalist at Research papers UK and Draft Beyond.
As well as re-framing the ways in which we think about mental health, it’s also crucial to put into place some tried, tested and evidence-based methods for improving our general mental health. While the steps listed below are not a cure for any diagnosed mental illness, they could be considered exercises for the mind that may help in addressing stress-related conditions.
Please note, if you are experiencing more serious challenges, always seek the help of a trained psychologist, psychiatrist or physician.
The past two years have emphasized how important social connection can be. Avoid isolation by chatting to family, friends or colleagues, as spending too much time alone and ruminating can be disastrous for mental health.
Nourish Your Body
We’re always told to eat well to keep our bodies healthy, but eating a varied, nourishing diet will also help keep your mind healthy. “For example, vitamin B12 and folate can help increase the production of serotonin and dopamine,” says Charles Galindo, health writer at Writinity.
Enjoy Regular Movement
Exercise, particularly if it gets you out of your house and into nature, is a great way to perk yourself up. Sunlight exposure is also crucial for the production of vitamin D, deficiency in which can contribute to mental illnesses such as depression.
Mindfulness and meditation have long been touted as miracle workers for those with poor mental health, and while they don’t cure everything, regular mindfulness sessions have been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Engage In Hobbies
It can be easy to neglect your hobbies and go from work to collapsing on the couch, particularly if you are struggling with a mental health condition that saps your energy. However, making time to engage in things that make you happy is crucial to good mental health.
Connect With Us on Social Media!
Part 1 of Kathlene McGovern’s 2 part series on the best and safest ways to travel with your furry friends!
Dove Rose give us ideas on how to stay curious! Keep it Fresh in the Kitchen, on the Drive and in your Life. New ideas to keep our mind alive!
Ken Craft of Hope of the Valley lives unhoused on the streets of the San Fernando Valley for 100 hours and shares the challenges, insights and struggles he faced on this journey.