By, Stephanie Mitton
As the pandemic continues to sweep the globe, many people are at their wits end. The virus has infected over 32 million people, and killed over 900 thousand people (to date); wreaked havoc on our everyday lives, and caused economic ruin.
And as usual, women are carrying the weight of this crisis on their shoulders. Many of us are at our limits.
Personally, I kept telling myself, I just need to get my kids into school and I/we will be fine. But the start date kept changing, eventually school started. But school wasn't the silver bullet I wanted it to be, I don’t feel settled with them at school (during a pandemic). On top of that, one of the reasons for returning to school is that it was better for children’s mental health. For one of my children, it has been the complete opposite, her anxiety from school is causing her to be physically ill. As I wrote this post I got an email from my school board about possible school closures, and that we need to be prepared that the announcement may not come until the morning of school, the MORNING. Excuse me while I rip out my hair…
From my own experience and conversations with friends, two things that I believe exacerbate the effects of COVID-19 are: loneliness and change.
You may live alone, or you may live with a family, but loneliness during COVID is still
affecting your mental health. Physical distance and isolation is… isolating. Mental health has become a growing concern during COVID. Depending on where you live, you may be mostly confined to your home, with few places to go and spend time with other people. Where I live, the # of people you can have inside or outside of your home is limited. You may be able to tell that I am extraverted, so I want to see all the people!
The lack of physical touch by friends & loved ones is also hard. I haven't touched my parents in almost a year, even though I have seen them many times. I find this emotionally upsetting, and some of you reading this may not have been able to see your friends and family at all. Some of you will have had loved ones die and you couldn't be with them.
Another concern is that friends and family are so busy dealing with their own challenges during COVID that it is hard to have time for meaningful connections, even if we know we need them. In my tight knit group of girlfriends from university, we are currently facing front line work, mental health challenges with our children, professional challenges, moving, a family death, health issues, and marital challenges. Even though we love and care for each other deeply, we are so busy surviving that we don’t have the capacity to support each other in the way we normally would. People feel like they are facing this huge challenge alone, physically and emotionally.
Everything is constantly changing, anxiety is high. Rules constantly change about where you can be, with how many people, and in what way. Every store has different procedures to combat COVID-19, as a result, the rules constantly change. I have entered many stores where I have been in my own world (shopping without kids!) and felt shamed by the scolding of a clerk or a customer for not following rules.
Everything is more complicated and takes longer. Even a trip to the dentist takes additional forms ahead of time, as well as in person, including completely different procedures while you are there. When my daughter went to the dentist this summer, I wasn't allowed into the building with her. Our car air conditioning was broken and I couldn't imagine sitting in the sweltering heat (it was a heat wave) with my other daughter while we waited, so I went home and arranged for them to call me when I needed to pick her up... needless to say it was more complicated than when we used to go and get treatment at the same time.
With COVID-19 getting worse, these challenges are not going to change any time soon, as many places slip into a second wave, it may even get worse.
So… what can we do about the effect of loneliness and constant change in our lives?
There are no silver bullets. I am reminded of my podcast interview with Psychologist Dr. Julie Desjardins, she reminds us to be “kind to ourselves”. We are all going to have to dig deep into your resilience and whatever personal beliefs you have to help you get through this.
What I hear from others is that they are in survival mode, and taking things one day at a time. I have certainly taken this approach.
I also limit my news intake (although I make sure to get the basics from a trusted health authority), I am in counselling, I try to fit in exercise with my kids, I do a gratitude journal (when I have time), I meditate/pray, I enjoy calls with friends, and the odd bath. My path may not be the same as yours, find what works for you!
Sometimes it helps just to know that you aren’t alone in finding life HARD right now. Other people are also feeling great loss, anxiety, loneliness and fear. You are NOT alone, it feels hard because it IS hard. Even though you may feel isolated, we are in this together!
For more advice from our podcast guests check out:
“You are not alone.”
What is helping you cope during COVID-19? Please share in the comments below!