When you hear the words: cough, fever, chills, headache, and loss of taste and smell, what immediately comes to mind?
Most likely, coronavirus.
But, what about depression, anxiety, and insomnia?
Many people don’t immediately jump to covid when they hear those words, yet covid-19 was hard at work making us both physically, and mentally sick.
So, how has covid affected our mental health?
No matter who you were, or where you lived, coronavirus came in like a wrecking ball and disheveled all of our lives.
Even the most successful business people were suddenly confined to the quarters of their homes. Children were taken from their friends and students away from their teachers.
The stress of financial ruin, the uncertainty of what was to come, and the utter chaos of our daily routines sent many of us into a whirlwind of emotions.
Maybe you, yourself felt these ripple effects and wanted to know you aren’t alone. Or, maybe you’re a curious cat.
Either way, read on to understand how our world became sicker in more ways than one, almost overnight.
Let’s Start From The Beginning:
While looking back, it feels like a fever dream, we can all remember the beginning of the pandemic.
People were terrified to leave their homes. Restaurants, libraries, movie theaters, and shopping malls were closed down.
Children were sent home one day, never to return back to school.
The frustration started almost immediately, with this abrupt life-altering change hitting the working class the hardest.
Families that had a solid routine down, were suddenly thrust into a work-home-school environment. All under one roof.
Immediately, there were signs that the pandemic was taking a mental toll on the population, as statistics increased within a month.
Research was conducted on the early effects the pandemic played on mental health.
Though small, there was a significant increase in mental health concerns between March-April of 2020, right when covid first hit the United States.
Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders were notably higher during this beginning period, compared to rates before the pandemic.
Covid’s Mental Toll On HealthCare Workers:
Without a doubt, nurses, doctors, and all other medical staff were hit the hardest during the pandemic.
With protocols ever-changing, fear of contracting coronavirus themselves, new covid strains, an overwhelming amount of patients, a shortage of supplies, and long, exhausting hours, health care professionals’ mental state was hit from the get go.
According to a survey given by Mental Health America (MHA), health care workers during the covid-19 pandemic reported the following mental health symptoms:
- High levels of stress: 93%
- Anxiety: 86%
- Burnout: 76%
- Insomnia: 82%
- Emotional exhaustion: 82%
One of the hardest pieces of information to swallow, was that despite feeling this way, 69% of health care workers felt as though they had no support.
While the pandemic isn’t over just yet, much has changed since the beginning. However, high rates of PTSD and anxiety from the pandemic still plague many health care workers’ lives.
Covid’s Mental Health Impact On Society:
Coronavirus took a toll on all walks of life. From those with pre-existing mental illnesses, to those who never had experienced depression before, nobody was spared. While I’m going to stick to research done in the United States, the rates of mental illness rose globally during the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, 1 in 10 adults reported anxiety, depression, or another type of mood disorder. During the pandemic, this number rose to 4 in 10 adults.
Only 5 months after the start of the pandemic, many adults were experiencing symptoms that either caused or worsened their mental state:
- 36% experienced difficulty sleeping
- 32% experienced changes in appetite
- 12% increase in alcohol consumption
- 12% worsening of chronic health conditions
A survey was taken in June of 2019 (before the pandemic) and the results showed that 11.1% of American adults experienced mental health problems. The same survey was conducted one year after the pandemic started and results showed:
- Anxiety Disorder: 36%
- Depression: 28%
- Anxiety and Depression: 41%
In addition to higher rates of depression and anxiety, many communities faced higher numbers of suicide, substance abuse, and overall poor health.
According to research conducted on the impact of covid-19 and mental health, the following groups were disproportionately affected:
- Young Adults (18-24): 56%
- Lower-Income Families: 53%
- Mothers: 49%
- Non-Hispanic Black Adults: 48%
- Hispanic or Latino: 46%
With concerns about the impact covid will have on mental health, researchers were already on high alert over the rise in substance abuse during the pandemic.
In June of 2020 – 4 months after the pandemic hit the United States – 13% of adults reported having new or increased substance use due to factors caused by coronavirus.
Social isolation, stress, rising rates of mental health disorders, and loneliness have all made for a perfect storm, in which alcohol is the only umbrella.
Many states, such as Wisconsin, shut down nearly all of their stores, yet kept liquor stores open, providing easy access for those coping with the pandemic through drinking.
Not only did the pandemic cause many adults to pick up this new habit, it became particularly difficult for those in recovery.
According to the CDC, there were 93,000 drug overdoses in 2020 alone – the highest number ever recorded in a one-year period.
Pre-Existing Mental Illness:
Those struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness before the pandemic, were met with a new set of challenges.
For many struggling with depression, getting outside, working out at the gym, or being social with friends were all activities to help cope in healthy ways.
Symptoms such as hopelessness, loneliness, exhaustion, anxiety, and emptiness were all exacerbated without any productive outlet to access.
For those with more serious psychiatric disorders, the feelings of being quarantined brought about a host of emotions such as anger, that led to PTSD and suicidal thoughts.
Taking Care of Yourself Post-Pandemic:
While the pandemic seems to be winding down, the mental effects these last 2 years have had on our society aren’t going to disappear overnight.
While the coughs, aches, and pains may fade, and while you finally get your sense of taste and smell back, the toll a sudden terrifying change like a pandemic has on your brain doesn’t fade as quickly as we may want it too.
Even if you have your job back now, and you made it through without getting sick, you may still be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression stemming back to March of 2020.
Here are a few ways to take care of yourself post-pandemic so you can get your mental state back to what it was:
- Eat healthy, nourishing foods to fuel your body
- Journal – a gratitude journal in the morning can set your day on a positive note
- Exercise every day – even something as small as a walk can boost your mood
- Try mindfulness practices – this includes breathwork, stretching, meditation, or yoga
Covid-19 Made Us Sick, But It’s Time To Heal:
Yes, covid may have had you bedridden for days, you may still experience shortness of breath from time to time. But the devastating effects coronavirus had on our world are often buried beneath the thick layers of our brain.
Covid stole so much from us, not only as a nation, but globally.
Practicing self care tips, being kind to yourself, and understanding that you aren’t alone are the first steps in healing from the destruction of covid.
There’s a sense of community when you realize how many of us experienced a decline in our mental health during the pandemic. However, it’s up to you to choose how you want to heal.