Since quarantine started back in March, more people have been experiencing issues with their mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), their Disaster Distress Helpline saw an 891% increase in calls from March 2019 to March 2020.
Social isolation plays a major role in people’s declining mental health. Everyone has had to avoid hanging out with friends and family, and even as COVID restrictions have lessened, life has yet to return to normal. Parties are supposed to be a no-go, as are concerts and festivals. Even school feels isolated since many classes are online or hybrid, making it hard to connect with professors and peers. The American Psychological Association (APA) cites depression, insomnia, and rapid cognitive decline as a result of social isolation.
Fear surrounding COVID-19 and an uncertainty about the future can impact mental health as well. The University of Minnesota published an article explaining that fear can hinder our ability to process emotions.
Along with fear and isolation, millions of Americans are under a financial burden from losing their jobs and not being able to find another, or finding one that cannot support them like the jobs they had before.
Because of such a large increase in issues with mental health, getting appointments with mental health professionals can prove to be far too difficult, and the reality is that many people cannot afford a therapist – even if they manage to find an appointment.
It would be a disservice of me to only recommend therapy when it’s not an accessible option at the moment. However, there are other ways to help yourself out if you are having difficulty with life. Right now, it’s essential that we power through these tough times.
First of all, it is beyond important to reach out. Friends and family are arguably the best unprofessional resource to improve your mood. You can have a good laugh with them or speak about the struggles you are facing. Ranting can be a great medicine. Speaking with someone in which you have a close relationship can help you see that you’re an important person in other’s lives.
I understand that not everyone is comfortable with people close to them knowing that they’re struggling, so there are helplines to reach out to as well. In the age of texting, one of the best options is the Crisis Text Line. You can discuss a pressing issue with someone trained to help de-escalate the situation without having to speak to anyone directly over the phone. However there are phone lines that you can use as well.
Along with reaching out, taking care of yourself can go a long way while waiting until you’re able to get professional help. Sometimes, that can be as little as taking a shower.
Exercising is key because it releases endorphins and serotonin into your brain – both of which are important for mental health. You don’t need to do anything crazy; going for a walk outside or even doing some jumping jacks in your room is better than nothing.
Another way to take care of yourself is to notice how you’re eating. Have you had a full meal recently? Or have you just been surviving off of snacks, or, not much at all? Declining mental health can make you neglect caring for yourself in ways you never realized. A full, and balanced meal is a way to show your body and mind a bit of love.
My last suggestion is to find something to temporarily leave your worries behind. My favorite activity is to read an undemanding book. No need for a classic or something that requires deep thoughts (unless that is what you love). This way, you’re able to dive into a new world and leave yours behind if it seems to feel too painful. If reading isn’t for you, watch a movie that you know and brings you joy or takes you to a different place.
Mental illness affects so many people and even more are ignorant to the effects mental illness can have. I am no professional and mental health is complicated. But since professionals aren’t easy to get to, you need to be able to find ways to continue on.
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Line: Call 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Center of Tampa Bay: Call 2-1-1