As social beings, the ability of us humans to connect with our friends and family, and being in close contact with our social support networks can be an important part of our lives. Therefore, when staying safe during the Covid-19 pandemic meant having to change the way we connected, it is natural to expect that this may have taken a toll.
This sense of loss could have come from having to completely change our routine, social isolation from friends, more conflict in the family, the stress of online school, or the cancellation of important events. Moreover, we are not designed to stay in a heightened state of stress for prolonged periods of time, and we know that ongoing stress can have a negative impact on the body and mind.
Many people in all parts of the world have reported ongoing struggles and it’s important to know that if you are struggling, you are not alone, and it is okay not to be okay.
A common word that I have heard many people use to describe their experience as a result of the pandemic is “covid fatigue,” which describes feelings of sadness, irritability, frustration, exhaustion, and difficulties with attention and concentration.
For young people especially, forming routines, social connections, and healthy activities are crucial to personal development and mental well being. The lack of these not only causes distress, but prevents us from thriving and living to our full potential.
Every person is different and may need something unique to get through this difficult time, but here are some tips to try if you find yourself struggling:
1. Create a new routine. Believe it or not, many of us thrive on routine and structure, and not having a routine can be difficult on us. Try to create a new routine which can include small and meaningful changes such as getting dressed for the day as soon as you wake up.
2. Voice your feelings. It is normal to have various feelings as a result of the changes caused by the pandemic. Trying to keep your feelings inside can make things harder, so try sharing your feelings with someone you trust, and perhaps also ask how they are feeling.
3. Find something to do that is fun and meaningful to you every day. This will be different for each person but ask yourself: “what is a small thing that I can do today that would matter?”
4. Stay connected! Even though we may not be able to connect in the ways we usually do, it is extremely important to stay connected during this time. This can involve a number of different things such as setting up phone calls, FaceTime or Zoom dates, and socially distanced meetings, if permitted.
5. Plan something to look forward to! Due to the pandemic, many things have been cancelled. Therefore, if we plan for something to look forward to in the future, it can help us to get through this difficult time, by placing a positive focus in our mind.
6. Consider what helps you to manage stress. This will be different for everyone, but some ideas might be exercising, getting enough sleep, going outside, reading a novel, meditating, or doing something creative.
7. Reach out for help. If you find that you are continuing to struggle, it may be helpful to ask a professional for help. Reach out to someone in your local community or at your closest health care facility to find out what mental health resources are available near you.
Alshaba Billawala is a registered psychologist who provides evidence-based mental health treatment for adults, adolescents and couples in Alberta, Canada.