COPING AMID COVID-19

COPING AMID COVID-19

Who would have thought we’d be facing new realities, forcing us to close the door to normalcy in the form of a global pandemic. Okay, maybe Bill Gates, but for the average Joe or plain Jane, COVID-19 caught us unawares. It continues to sweep across the globe sending nations into a state of panic and fear. As the two-year mark approaches since our battle began, we are still faced with uncertainty as the world starts to rebuild what has been broken and lost.

Undoubtedly the death of humans worldwide at the hands of the pandemic is our most tragic loss as we continue to see loved ones fighting for their lives.

The world came to a standstill as the list of losses painfully added up.

Each country had its response to mitigate the spread of the virus by imposing lockdowns and restrictive policies.
Countries far and wide have been grappling with the socio-economic impact of this health crisis. For months communities lived from hand to mouth as various sectors faced shutdowns and closed signs became more permanent. The streets were silent as chaos struck. It straight up felt like a movie minus the climactic scene where the hero/heroine saves the day.

Society felt the impact as unemployment rates were on the rise and food insecurity worsen. Like most disasters, low-income groups always get the short end of the stick.
The pandemic has exacerbated the gap between rich and poor due to the lack of resources and financial strain. People’s livelihoods are at risk as many live in extreme poverty with no access to health care services.

It is fair to say that COVID has stripped away most parts of society that we as humans are dependent on and naive to think it hasn’t affected our minds.

From the minute we heard about the threat it posed, humans experienced a combination of fear, stress, and worry. The uncertainty of the unknown virus granted a natural response of concern and disbelief. Rightfully so, people were anxious about their health and the potential risk of putting their families’ well-being in danger. Most are navigating through losing loved ones, income, experiences, and time.

With the primary stress being the physical threat of contracting the virus, many have overlooked the mental strain.
The majority were and are struggling with their mental health. Whether it be overworked medical professionals who are at a heightened risk of exposure feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or the retrenched single mother figuring out her next move, COVID has taken a toll on our mental state.

In households, built-up tensions and frustrations have intensified abuse as bottled-up emotions come to light as acts of explosive rage. Abused victims experience an increase in social isolation with restricted movement and reduced contact with others. Some have started or returned to seeking comfort in substance abuse habits as a means of coping and escaping the increased stress.

With limited social interactions and support, many are feeling alone without the connection of others. The weight of this pandemic starts to feel heavier when the load is not shared. We rely on each other. With support restricted in a physical sense, people can feel cut off from the outside world and retreat to a bubble where that confinement can be lonely. Spending days on end indoors may lead to cabin fever, where one suffers from feeling trapped and enters a state of extreme restlessness/boredom. We should not turn a blind eye to this as it can entice feelings of self-harm and onset depression. People predisposed to mental illness and current mental disorder patients may have had limited access to services, hindering their progress. Our children cant make sense of it all while their worlds turn upside down. Our elderly are facing yet another tragedy as they come to terms with being a high-risk group. Many who tested positive and recovered were stigmatized.
All in all, there isn’t an individual that hasn’t been affected.

Media and social media has served us in both a negative and positive aspect.

On the one hand, it has kept us all connected virtually. On the other hand, it has created a frenzy with the constant update of statistics that remind us daily of the threat we face while perpetuating falsehoods that have downplayed the reality of the virus. Conspiracy theories flooded social media platforms, misinformation that is responsible for creating setbacks. I’m always down for welcoming justified perspectives but people seemed to be wilding out. Yes, by nature we understand most things as cause and effect. Humans need to reason and rationalize matters, especially of this magnitude. However, theories were creating anxiety the more you scrolled, rather than equipping one with educated thought-provoking explanations.

Our ‘hero’ disguised as the inception of the vaccine created a calming force amongst some and increased anxiety with others. Once again, false news surfaced and drove many to believe there was more to being vaccinated against COVID. People who never had this internal conflict before stood in line with an influx of thoughts and suspicions. Once vaccinated, many feared for the after-effects and the opinions of others.

Dealing with a disaster that has heightened anxiety, we do a great job at creating more. Let’s refrain from lighting matches on a fire that’s been burning. Instead, we need to rally together in support of one another. Before we can achieve this, we need to start with ourselves. First, let’s establish that it’s okay to have good and bad days, no one expects you to be positive Polly 24/7. Forced optimism to suppress your human experience will only get you so far – welcome the yin and the yang.

Self-care during this time should be one’s utmost priority.

We can focus on building inner peace by getting out into nature, breathing fresh air again, and being thankful for the small blessings. Exercising and working on your physical health can often build your mind from the outside. Activities like yoga and relaxation techniques can help one feel calm and centered. It’s astounding what breathwork can do, bringing a deep sense of tranquility and reminding us that we should be grateful to be breathing. One of the things that personally helped me is finding a routine during stricter lockdown levels. Following a schedule allows you to balance yourself in an era where you cannot control the external chaos but you can control what you choose to do.

Many have suffered from irregular sleeping patterns and overall feelings of agitation. We see it every day, the Karens at the grocery store, vent-up drivers on the road, or the neighbour that no longer greets. Our communities are frustrated, the mask doesn’t do a good job of covering that up. If there was a time to show compassion and remind each other what it is to be human it’s now. To help us slowly work our way back, we can prioritize healthy habits. Healthy eating is essential to ensure we are feeding our brains with nourishing foods and maximizing our energy levels. Speaking of what we take in, limiting time on social media or detoxing can serve us well. The world is constantly going through tragedy and internalizing it can be detrimental to our peace of mind.

Taking note of our screen time can help us steer clear of receiving negative news constantly and feeling burdened with the world’s issues. This goes for opinions and gossip too, decipher what kind of conversations you choose to engage in. Don’t let the noise in. Substitute your phone time with satisfying productive hobbies like gardening, DIY, or arts and crafts. Invest in mindfulness meditation which can help you block out distractions and become self-aware.

Call, check-in with family and friends, a message can go a long way too. Make yourself available once you’re in a good shape to do so.
Embrace those who may find it hard to adjust back into social settings and have social anxiety. Slowly suggest one on one coffee dates or hikes, even a late-night cruise with good music may be all a person needs. Emphasis on the ‘good music’.

Now I wonder when we’ll receive emails without the common intro “during these unprecedented times” but for now things are looking up. Let’s focus on what we can do for ourselves and for others. Peace over everything.

Mind over matter.

HEAVY ON THE SOWING AND REAPING.

HEAVY ON THE SOWING AND REAPING.

It’s only fitting that individuals born between 1925 to 1945 are known as the ‘Silent Generation”, notorious for soldiering on and navigating through adversity without much complaint. From the Great Depression, WWII, and an Apartheid regime, to name a few, this generation has endured hardships in all forms, recently the addition of the global pandemic. As an age group facing the most risk during this health crisis, they continue to practice silent resilience.

In no way does their silence serve as an indication of their ability to cope but rather attests to an ingrained resistance to seeking mental support. Reared on the belief that being strong and showing emotional restraint was a means of survival, anything less, was a sign of weakness. This indoctrinated perception is a direct consequence of a society that marginalized and discriminated against mental illness.

Lunatic. Mad. Crazy.


Popular labels used to carelessly describe patients who experienced mental illness and poor mental health. Loosely used terms that hold power to perpetuate stigma and socially isolate. Society defined mentally ill patients as outsiders and rejected them from their narrow-minded idea of what they considered normal. With the same energy used to make quick judgments, ignorant solutions formed. “Get over it.” “Snap out of it.” Simple right?
The ripple effects made patients either less inclined to explore treatment options or prolonged treatment due to self-doubt.
This stigma dispersed through all levels. Institutional, social, and consequently a self-stigma deeply rooted in internalized shame.

The generation of silent sufferers have contributed to a vicious cycle that produced a history of rising stigma, which meant mental health was never a topic of discussion. Mental health back then was approached with a ‘brush it under the carpet’ notion as knowledge and understanding of mental illness was limited.

Evolving.

In the environment I grew up in, psychological health was a hushed subject. Emotions that were considered ‘negative, or ‘weak’ were soon suppressed and swiftly dismissed. My community shared the consensus that in the face of adversity you should thug it out. The common expectation was that if you fall, you dust it off and keep going. This belief was a blanket solution for every situation, be it trivial or significant. From a young age, I had an urge to understand my home dynamics and this shielded generational approach, which posed a never-ending question that clung to my childhood. Why? These three letters piqued my interest and had me fall in love.

My childhood proved to be a bittersweet experience as it sparked a curiosity in me that opened the door to psychology. It was love at first sight.

I embarked on a journey filled with deep admiration and respect for the human science that studies the mind and behaviour. I immersed myself in a field that has since become a life compass. Psychology represents and defines a central part of who I am today. But like most first loves the euphoria became clouded by reality.

As you may know, to become a practicing professional, you need your master’s degree paired with a full-year internship before registering for the HPCSA. As a young graduate in 2017 who still intends on achieving the above milestones, the inherent stubborn and impatient nature of a Taurus prompted my desire to do it all now. With my undergraduate degree at 20, there was a sense of naivety brewing behind my dream of being fully qualified at 24, something I needed to rethink.

How could a 24-year-old counsel a 45-year-old patient?

A question posed to me as I keenly spoke to my professor about my intentions. He advised me that I needed life experience that would afford me a deeper understanding of people. A combination of maturity and worldliness. Being goal-orientated, an individual driven by their avid need to journal each plan it was to my surprise that this advice caused some items on my list to enter a state of pending. I evaluated this change of course and decided that I would venture out and open myself to new experiences outside the walls that brought me both knowledge and comfort.

Switch up the narrative.

On my journey of self-discovery, I began brainstorming ways to align my passion with action to create more awareness and reach a community that could equally educate and introduce me to several opposing perspectives. Hence the birth of my blog Mind Over Matter: Psych Talks.

With a technology-driven world and society consumed by outside appearances and material gain, there still seems to be neglect for mental health amongst Gen Z and Millenials. Gen Z is currently the most depressed generation riddled with anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, we live in a world where ‘internal wounds of the mind’ are ignored, yet visible exterior wounds are offered sympathy and support.
It’s about time we break the cycle.

It dawned on me amid Covid-19 that I wanted to curate an online platform that aids in reshaping the mold by sharing knowledge through open, honest discourse. A safe space that welcomes diversity and does not shy away from controversial topics and uncomfortable conversations like the generations before us.

Timing is everything. I am eternally grateful to be a product of the generational mindset towards mental health that led me to find my vocation at a young age and catapulted me into finding my voice today.

Welcome to my blog. Thank you.