As we hit the anniversary of COVID-19 in the US, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the impact this monumental year has had on our collective mental health… including the good, bad and in-between.
This last year has shown us the power of collective experience. Rarely do we have a global experience in our lifetime that impacts each and everyone on us on such drastic levels.(At least one that we’re so conscious of and is so long lasting.) And while COVID-19 has in some way impacted us all, how it has impacted us varies.
What have we learned:
Humans are incredibly adaptable
It’s hard to imagine adapting so quickly to something so life changing, but many of us quickly did. It’s believed that adaptability is an inherent quality of being human. It’s also a skill we can hone. If you reflect back on the last year, you’ll probably see multiple ways in which you adapted to the world around you — wearing a mask, picking up groceries, zoom calls instead of in person meetings, virtual dates etc. While we often feel set in our ways and find comfort in the predictable, it’s important to recognize that even in today’s world, humans can still be adaptable.
Humans can be resilient
In a survey published in Dec. 2020, it was found that some humans overestimate their own resilience. The survey found that while 83% of people believed themselves to have high resiliency skills, 57% scored as ‘resilient.’ However in the last year we’ve seen an incredible amount of resilience. From people coming together to coordinate with one another, to adapting to life changes, the power of human resiliency is everywhere.
Humans can be compassionate, empathetic and kind
Compassion, empathy and kindness are powerful tools that connect us to one another. In the last year we saw these examples of compassion, empathy and kindness through neighbors helping neighbors, family members sending care packages to each other, friends calling with words of support. We saw communities rally around causes and disasters, and donors making sure their local food bank stayed open. And while we saw other expressions of emotion different from compassion, empathy and kindness, it’s these three things that weave us together during good times and bad.
Anxiety is real
When the pandemic hit the US our country was filled with uncertainty for months. We knew little about the virus itself, how it spread and how to avoid it. We worried about the safety of our loved ones, ourselves and our communities. On top of all that the uncertainty of job loss, school closures, isolation and many other things brought stress and worry into our lives. For many, it was the first time they truly struggled with anxiety.
We know that uncertainty can cause a great deal of anxiety and that people learn to cope with anxiety in many different ways. That last year has shown us that sometimes those coping tools aren’t always effective, highlighting the importance of mental health care in communities.
Fortunately we’ve also seen the last year normalize anxiety for many. More and more people felt comfortable seeking help for their mental health. And for some experiencing anxiety for the first time gave them empathy for others who experience it everyday.
Anger is real
Over the last year we also saw a rise in public displays of anger, some in response to politics and some in response to shut down regulations. Anger is a natural protective feature for humans. And it’s important to remember that often, it’s not anger itself, but rather what’s under anger, that’s important*. For many anger is a reaction that protects us when we’re scared, sad, worried or feel unsafe. Knowing this can help you deal with your own anger or someone else’s anger. *We want to note though that -it’s important still to keep ourselves and others safe from some anger reactions!
Collaboration is key
In the last few months collaboration among our government officials has brought a rapid response to ending the pandemic with quick vaccine distribution, highlighting the power of coming together. Earlier in the pandemic we saw communities uniting to keep food banks open, to care for neighbors who lost their jobs, and support others and their families after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
This collaboration with one another demonstrates the power of community, and coincidentally it’s what Mental Health Lou is all about! Notice what great changes are possible when people can come together!
If you’re still experiencing the effects of COVID-19 shut downs, job loss, life changes and more, know this is normal. Help is out there for you too! If you’re in the Louisville area you can check out our resource guide or reach out to us: email@example.com and we can connect you with a provider, group, workshop or other resources to help you!