As we know, we are living in one of the most difficult times the world has ever faced. A pandemic situation is not something that we could have predicted or known was coming. However, we are not without recourse during this difficult moment in all of our lives. One of the greatest advantages that we have in our society is the ability to conduct research and gather data on unknown situations to better understand a phenomenon or to have a clearer picture of the consequences that could be occurring in real time. Much of the uncertainty that is a part of our daily lives now since we began learning about COVID-19 is trying to be addressed through ongoing research, clinical trials, and continued testing.
One of the more difficult parts for all of us to adjust to is what I call the “not knowing”: we don’t know when businesses will reopen, we don’t know when we will be able to have our first barbecue gatherings, and we don’t know when the next time we will be able to attend a sporting event or concert is. I find myself getting nervous over the prospect of not knowing, and responding to news and updates with thoughts like “Yes, I get that this is a work in progress and we’re learning how to deal with it, but when…”. This thought process is related to anxiety and the constant worries and what ifs. I know that at least in my life, anxiety has become a much more commonplace, daily part of my life since the onset of the pandemic. Many people have reported increased symptoms of negative mental health and distressing or negative emotions. Many of us have been having trouble with managing stress in these unprecedented times or adjusting and modifying our coping skills to be appropriate given the limitations and restrictions placed on us.
Ravi Philip Rajkumar has published one of the first studies that takes a preliminary look at the mental health impacts of COVID-19 as it has impacted the world so far. He found that up to a quarter of people have begun to endorse some symptoms related to depression or anxiety, with stress and trouble sleeping cited frequently in people’s descriptions of their symptoms. Knowledge is the first step in understanding what is going on around us, as well as within us. The next step is deciding on an action step. Am I going to stay depressed or anxious? Or am I going to use my supports around me and reach out for help? Am I going to keep drinking or decide it’s time to sober up and talk about what’s going on with me? We can’t control COVID-19, but we can control our response to what’s going on in our world, and we don’t have to do it alone.
Reference: For more information, please see “COVID-19 and mental health: A review of the existing literature” by Ravi Philip Rajkumar.