As we countdown to the final weeks of 2020, we come to realize that although times may still be tough and full of uncertainty, we have nearly made our way through an extremely unprecedented year. Mental health and anxiety have been gaining prominence in recent years, rightly moving up our list of priorities, and this year has been no exception; it has been more prominent and important than ever. No one could have predicted a global pandemic, and its impact, nor how countries of the world would cope.
Though the pandemic has thrown a curveball, it has led many people to take some much needed time to reflect on themselves and their own mental wellbeing. It has been a time to refocus and for some this might have been finding a new hobby in exercising and connecting with family and friends in new ways through continued social distancing, or maybe even a complete career change.
With restrictions in a continuous state of change depending on the rate of spread and cases of the virus, we are all living to a level of contingency, at least until a vaccination has been developed and distributed. No matter how imminent this may be, there are still logistics to be worked out along the way, but this sure does give us hope.
In this time of the “new normal” we need to continue to be vigilant of the mental health of others alongside physical health. We have seen many instances this year of people supporting and helping each other that need to be carried into 2021. It is imperative that this message of “Be Kind’ extends to both ourselves and others.
A year of a global pandemic has certainly heightened anxiety levels whether already a sufferer or having developed these traits this year, this will have caused struggles for many. The uncertainties of the virus to our health and loved ones alone are enough to cause anxiety characteristics, but the loss of jobs or getting accustomed to new ways of working through new restrictions or working from home might cause new pressures. Social distancing might also be taking its toll, with large amounts of time spent away from loved ones. With the closure of many hospitality venues during the pandemic, contact with others in the traditional way has been limited. It is certainly enough to make anyone feel worried, but if your symptoms are impacting your quality of life and your day-to-day living it is important to seek support.
As reported by the BBC, a potential increase in OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, has also been an area of concern with the introduction of increased handwashing, the wearing of face masks and a continuous awareness of what we are touching as well as having to maintain social distancing. This could lead to people developing habits that last past the effects of the pandemic. OCD takes these common habits and turns them into traits and practices that you feel like you have to continue to protect yourself and make yourself feel safe. This could pose a risk to children, who are crucially at a point in their life where this ‘new normal’ may be their ‘only normal’. Even when a vaccination is available for the virus, what will the prolonged effects be of these behaviours?
One thing for sure is that 2020 has taught us a lot about our lifestyles as individuals, local communities, countries and the world. Staying at home has encouraged us to discover new hobbies and pastimes we might never have discovered otherwise that have helped our physical and mental health. Having a productive outlet to focus some of these thoughts and feelings is important. Taking the time to connect with others, by Zoom, over the phone or socially distanced when deemed safe to do so, allows us to not only keep in contact but to share our feelings and worries.
Many high profile figures have also come forward where possible and using their established platforms to show us that we are all feeling the struggles and the impact on their own mental health. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but the worries are there for us all and for our loved ones. For example, singer Sam Smith shared his struggles early in the first lockdown.
Social media has been an invaluable resource this year, allowing people and organizations to share messages of support and coping mechanisms. We have been inspired by the sharing of particular members of communities or health care professionals that have gone that extra mile. Showing we value everyone in the community can help to support the mental health of others.
Over the course of the year so far, in the face of adversity, we have continually seen people come forward to share both their successes and struggles in order to create awareness of mental health and anxiety and to help others come through similar situations. It is clear that the fall out of Covid-19 is going to have a considerable impact upon our mental health too. Mental health is becoming the important topic it should be and it is essential that we continue to look out for others, offer support and raise awareness as the effects of the pandemic continue.