Mental flexibilty and COVID-19. The new survival skill.
Updated: Feb 12, 2021
by Kaylee Patterson, MA, LPC, NCC
The impact of COVID-19 on mental health has been huge. We are only just starting to understand the affects that the pandemic has had on individuals and families. What I have observed is just how varied the individual impact has been. As a community we are feeling an increase in stress and added challenges. However, each person I speak with is experiencing hardship in a unique way. Some individuals are overwhelmed with being at home with their large families, attempting to maintain work and teach their children while never having a minute of alone time. Others are single individuals, who live alone, and have been experiencing isolation, a loss of connection and support. Collectively, the themes of fear and anxiety are being voiced. Some people fear the virus, others are living in fear of economic hardship, worries about their children’s education, not being able to attend critical family events, milestones, even funerals.
The dynamic of this pandemic has demanded that we be mentally flexible. The unpredictable changes in routine and lifestyle are trying for most people, but can be even more difficult for those who have experienced other significant trauma in their lifetime. The feelings of loss of security and safety are very real during this pandemic. This can trigger heightened emotional responses for individuals who have previously experienced traumatic events that made them feel unsafe. It is difficult to feel as though we do not have any control over our lives or our futures. We are all experiencing this in unique ways and may need support and tools to cope with it. Mindfulness practices have been very successful in helping individuals to stay at peace in the present moment and with finding acceptance that we do not have control of the future, pandemic or not. Finding ways to creatively build and maintain social supports is also critical.
As a mental health professional, I have always encouraged healthy support systems as one of the most important aspects of mental health. We are all currently facing huge mental health challenges but being told to isolate from other people rather than reach out for support. This is the opposite of what we know to be true to keep mentally healthy. Finding a way to be connected is more important now than ever. Many counselors are offering services over computers and phones. Some have begun to see clients in person again with safety precautions in place. We are all facing new and difficult challenges due to this pandemic and the toll on mental health has been widespread. If you are struggling, you are not alone, and speaking to a counselor is a great way to gain support and skills to cope with your individual challenges and feelings.
Child and Family Services' Behavioral Health Department offers tele-health services. Visit https://www.cfsnwmi.org/counseling for more information.