Updated: May 31, 2021
It's a few days away from June, signaling the beginning of summer and a marker that 2021 is half over. We also see how our day-to-day lives have the opportunity to be more typical of how they used to be. However, we cannot forget the emotional toll we have all been through in the last fifteen months. We have stayed in, been quieter, and perhaps more reflective during this disturbing time in the period, where so much came at us in multiple directions.
Within the last few weeks, I have noticed social anxiety, fear, and surrealness that everyone feels in more profound ways. I have heard and witnessed it directly from my clients while also feeling at odds. Experiencing going out to restaurants and parties seems to be bringing a lack of ease and an increase of unknown.
We want to move on from this time of trauma, but how? How can we move on while still honoring the individual and collective trauma we have experienced?
I know there is a way, and I am discovering that we have to approach this task with balance and emotional awareness. If we take a moment towards understanding what we have gone through, that can help us move forward.
Since the pandemic, the most significant research which examines the increasing depression levels came from Boston University, School of Public Health. In this study, the research showed that depression levels have tripled in the population they surveyed. Additionally, the study reveals the disparities of COVID and how it has affected groups with less direct support and social and economic stability. Though most of us have come to witness the inequalities of the pandemic, the research confirms this. A significant factor for depression levels increasing among the participants is if they were economically insecure and had less than $5,000 in savings. This determinator again shows the gap COVID has placed a spotlight on.
Additionally, the study discusses how the collective mental health of our country responds to trauma, whether it be a natural disaster, economic uncertainty. "Mental Health is sensitive to traumatic events, and their social and economic consequences" (pg2)
Not honoring these mental health ramifications would be dangerous to us as we move towards a post-pandemic life. Although some won't have the emotional awareness that surfaced during this time, that does not mean that you can't honor your experience.
We have accomplished a lot in merely finding ways to cope healthily during this time. We seem to be so zoomed into what we have been experiencing that it has provided a lack of perspective we gain when we zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
When we choose to look at the bigger picture, we are allowing ourselves to zoom out. Times are a bit safer, even though we have more ahead of us, but we must start to be aware of opening up for our own emotional sake.
We still have to see how mental health will continue to play out as the pandemic happens, knowing with certainty that all of our mental health has been under stress. I hope that the continued influx of mental health awareness will continue, helping us improve and support those who feel alone.
After treading water for what seems like forever, maybe we can shift towards being more open, the same way we embraced pivoting when the pandemic began. Pivoting will be synonymous with COVID, so why can't we reframe it more healthily and positively? Maybe by continuing to pivot, we see our resilience in real-time play out, just in a different viewpoint.
This time continues to be highly intense and calls for us to continue to be our own greatest advocate. Everyone has experienced these past fifteen months differently, and we can honor the collective experience along with our perspective. No one knows better what you need and what will help you maintain your mental health.
We have to safely assume that some will have an easier transition, and some of us might struggle more. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it is okay exactly where you are. If you are socially anxious, that is understandable, as it the same for others who might be feeling less restricted.
Again, this is what each of our work is as we renter a world that has changed so much. How have you changed, and how do you see your future behavior possibly changing?
If you are experiencing more significant social anxiety, it is beneficial to have backup plans in approaching your doubts. Remember, you don't have to say yes to everything; however, it will not serve your mental health if you say no to everything.
Here are a few tips that I have found helpful with my work with clients as we find our way into adjusting:
1) Be prepared with good emotional backup plans. Maybe it means driving yourself to an event so that you can leave if you feel overwhelmed. Perhaps it means setting an amount of time you want to be out and being more conscious of your personal and physical boundaries.
2) Listen to that gut instinct or that inner voice. Listening to these signals might have been in place pre-pandemic; however, the best thing you can do for your mental health is to listen to the feedback you are feeling within your body. Listen to your body, and then choose purposefully what will serve you the best.
3) Speak your truth to your friends and family. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and vocalize that you are having a difficult time, and use support. More likely than not, whoever you are sharing these concerns with has them also. Being supportive and finding the proper support will be tremendously therapeutic.
Hoping that everyone can find their way as we continue to head into summer, with a lot more positive momentum than we had even a month ago. The time for healing seems to be now, and let us all continue to do our best in upholding what we have learned while being more open towards moving forward.
In good health and happiness,
Hillary Schoninger LCSW