As lockdown restrictions are lifted and life slowly returns to some kind of normality, it’s hard to imagine if it will be the same ‘normal’ we once knew before. Research has already suggested that we will probably adopt habits from the pandemic into our regular lives. For example, remote working and masks on public transport. But how has the past year affected our mental health? And how will it be after once normality is restored?
It has been suggested that there will be a “tsunami of psychiatric illnesses'' once the pandemic is over (Tandon, 2020). COVID has made such a huge impact on our lives and the effects on our mental health can be long lasting (Galea et al., 2020). During the lockdown itself, the disturbance and uncertainty in our lives caused irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, etc. Researchers have claimed that these psychological symptoms may last from several months or up to three years after the lockdown is over (Brooks et al., 2020).
One thing we all struggled with was the social isolation we had to endure. Not seeing loved ones and spending prolonged amounts of time either on your own or with the same people. It’s been difficult to not see friends and family and loneliness can affect your mental health. This isolation may have increased the rate of loneliness, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, child abuse and substance abuse (Galea et al;, 2020). However, in contrast some people may struggle to get back to normal day to day living and find busy areas or crowded places stressful and anxiety provoking.
Another reason why Post-Covid may affect our mental health is due to the economic state the pandemic has left us in. At the start of the pandemic, many lost jobs and people were struggling to get by. The economic effects of the pandemic won’t suddenly vanish as the lockdown is lifted. It’s difficult to say how bad we will be affected but the uncertainty of what the future holds and the possible financial implications can cause stress and anxiety which could ultimately have a significant impact on our mental health.
But it isn't all doom and gloom. Positive changes have come about, for example, remote working from home, which is increasingly becoming the 'norm' as employers realise the benefits this can bring. Employees have improved their life-work balance which can improve mental wellbeing. Saving commuting time allows that extra time to enjoy an activity you usually have to squeeze into that busy schedule, for example the gym. Even having time to eat a healthy breakfast!
Another positive aspect as a result of the pandemic is that many mental health services and therapy now have the tools to go virtual. Meaning you don’t need to leave your house for therapy sessions.
Also, hygiene and people's awareness of germs will definitely be improved. We can all agree that people have developed consciousness over the spread of germs. So washing hands, sanitation stations and face masks may continue into normal life.
It was difficult to find the right word that represented what we were going through in our lives. After the devastating effects of the pandemic were felt around the world, it’s important to remember that mental health isn’t something that just happens to you. It takes time to work on and requires sustained effort. Whether you are excited or dreading life post-COVID, here are some things you can do to help your mental wellbeing:
- Take it slow
If you’re nervous about being in large crowds again or just nervous about being in social settings, then try dipping your toe in the water before you dive head first. Try going for a coffee with a friend and slowly work your way up to a festival with thousands of people or a social situation with many people. Just because nightclubs are open and other people are going out, doesn’t mean you need to. Do everything at your own pace, it takes different amounts of time for each of us to adjust.
I have continuously spoken out about the benefits of journaling and the wonders it does for your mental health. Venting your feelings and writing down what has happened during your day can help you process and reflect. We have created a free workbook resource you can download to use to reflect on the whole pandemic. You can download it here.
3. Talk to someone
By talking to someone, it can help process worry, stress and doom and gloom. Talking about your feelings isn't a sign of weakness. It's part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. You can talk to a friend, family member or a therapist or even the Samaritans. Talking to someone will reduce the stress around post-covid life. You may even find that you share the same worries with some of your friends or family.
4. Keep positive habits from the pandemic
Remember at the start of the pandemic when we were only allowed to leave the house to go for one walk/run a day? This habit has continued for many and often people still go for walks to get some exercise. This is something in which you should try to maintain. Not only will it make you feel some sort of familiarity but this simple form of exercise is so beneficial to your mental health. There are other things you may have adopted during the pandemic which you should continue once it’s over, whether that is working on your small business, continuing a new hobby, that zoom yoga class or even just ‘zoom’ing friends and family more.