Are you a parent in a pandemic still trying to balance work and family life simultaneously? Are you a caregiver or medical professional who’s been burning the candle at both ends since the Covid outbreak? Are you a human being who is tired of hearing about Covid-19 and the relentless disruptions it has caused for so many? If you nodded “yes” to any one of these questions, you are not alone. The effects from the pandemic are not to be overlooked nor understated when it comes to our mental health. It is important to acknowledge how the last year and a half has impacted us all – big or small.
The pandemic experience can easily be summed up as a “collective trauma”. No one has escaped it. Every individual on the planet has been affected by Covid-19’s wrath in some way, shape, or form, which has caused a ripple effect on several aspects of our lives – including mental health. For starters, it has significantly robbed us of a strong sense of security and safety, thus creating an underlying anxiety for many. The experts we normally look to for guidance and information are also left with more questions than answers. We have daily reminders on newsreels bombarding us with climbing numbers. This is all destabilizing to humanity.
One thing the pandemic has incurred are never-before-seen levels of isolation which has had a massive impact on our overall mental health. Despite technology allowing us to “see” each other, it was never meant to be a permanent solution. Human beings are social creatures by nature. We need to connect with each other to be healthy and thrive. Co-regulation is a biological imperative. Even if introverts are more skilled in this context, we still need connection with one another, though we might protest it from time to time.
As a parent, the pandemic has imposed an additional layer of responsibility and worry when it comes to our children and their safety. (As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about!) Not only are we diligently making sure our children are well-versed in safety protocols, we are also concerned about how they are navigating these imposed stressors, when we as parents are struggling too. This doesn’t just apply strictly to school-aged children but also young adults who are trying to make their way in the world. For example, my son had to complete his college trade program exclusively online. Despite finishing at the top of his class, his graduation was an anti-climatic email with a JPG file of his diploma. These kinds of experiences can weigh heavily on our emotions, forcing us to dig deeper and find the silver lining.
As with any challenging life event, there are positive things that have surfaced, resurfaced, and continue to blossom – all thanks to the pandemic. People have had to mine the depths of their creativity to produce the most amazing solutions and results. Preliminary research is showing a return to basic joys while people are prioritizing what is truly important for them. This is having a positive impact. Finally, some good news!
In the face of difficult financial circumstances, there is the united strength of communities genuinely wanting to support one another. We are all learning that our differences and diversity are truly our strengths. We are discovering that not being okay in these crazy Covid times is….okay. We are collectively building resilience and acceptance. We are exercising our gratitude muscles. We are learning to appreciate each other for who we are – something that may not have been possible were it not for this pandemic.
With all that said, here are a few takeaways to help restore some life balance in the midst of these trying times.
First and foremost, patience and kindness.
Not only towards others, but towards ourselves. Practice giving yourself some space to simply breathe. Notice the leaves changing colours, listen to the squirrel nattering because of a cat prowling too closely, smell the fresh coffee brewing when you’re walking by that coffee shop.
One of the consequences of doing this is self-awareness. We learn about who we are, what we need, and what works for us individually. This is great modeling for our children as well. It gives them permission and space to care for themselves. It’s teaching them that they matter.
Move! Not as in relocate…but simply move.
If you’re sitting, stand up and stretch. Movement helps the brain function more effectively. Even if it’s simply taking a 15 minute walk around the block. Movement is medicine.
Lastly, laugh. Find humour in situations.
Laugh at yourself. (I never run out of material!) Last winter, in the midst of a lockdown, my next door neighbour decided to take her kids tobogganing on a nearby hill. I could hear the kids squealing and laughing in the distance. It was wonderful to experience this joy second hand. I took great pleasure in watching them have fun and making memories. At one point, the eldest son decided to slide down the hill, to which he promptly took his mother out like a bowling pin! (Thankfully, no one was hurt.) Hearing my neighbour and the kids’ roaring laughter made me laugh out loud, to the point where I would simply think about it at a later time and chuckle to myself. I firmly believe my dog thought I was acting weirder in those moments.
If there is one thing above all to remember; it is that despite the upheaval and instability the pandemic has triggered, there are moments of pure joy and laughter to be found. Give yourself that space to breathe and smile – even if only for a moment.