It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a once-in-a-lifetime traumatic event is affecting our mental health, but many of us seem to feel that we aren’t coping as well as we should be.
Should. That’s a loaded word, isn’t it? We should be kinder, more patient parents. We should appreciate our partners more. We should eat healthier food, and exercise more, and be more productive at work. We should … well, the list is endless. And honestly? Beating yourself up because you aren’t meeting an imaginary standard isn’t the way to feel better.
Here’s what’s true about pandemic living and mental health.
1. We’ve lost our sense of security. Our routines are disrupted, we’ve lost household income, and some of us have lost loved ones. Even if we’ve been relatively unscathed, we’ve sat at home watching news reports of a fatal disease creeping ever closer to home. That’s a recipe for anxiety and depression.
2. Our support networks are disrupted. We haven’t been able to hug our friends or family. The people we rely on to support us through tough times are all going through the same experience and can’t lift us up the way they normally would. We feel isolated, even if we’re surrounded by people.
3. We are spending too much time with our spouses. Yes, I said it. We weren’t meant to be joined at the hip 24-7 to our romantic partners. Relationships thrive when we have space to appreciate them and fresh experiences to bring into them. It can be very disconcerting to realize that when you finally have time together, you spend it arguing.
4. We’ve reached the end of our ability to multi-task. We’re trying to work, homeschool our kids, and live our lives, all in the same physical space. And we feel like we aren’t succeeding at any of it.
5. We’re wondering if we want to go back to life exactly as it was. We miss normal life, except for the parts we don’t miss at all, and it feels overwhelming to contemplate returning to business as usual.
If any of this sounds familiar, congratulations: You’re completely normal.
Having said that, this is a terrific time to do some of the mental housekeeping that we put off when times are good, and we’re too busy to think about the inconvenient stuff: the fact that we don’t feel passionate about our work, or that we sometimes feel blue for weeks at a time and don’t really know why, or that we wish we could communicate better with the people we love.
I’d love to help you chart a course for a future that’s less about what you should do and more about what you want to do. Let’s talk.