How Well Do You Cope?
The pandemic has transformed everything.
To varying degrees, remote working has replaced sitting in an office, on-demand home premieres have replaced going to the movie theater, delivery has replaced eating out, and online classrooms have replaced learning at school.
The ways we communicate, socialize, consume, shop, work, relax, and learn have changed, and we’re all feeling anxious, uncertain, and stressed.
But It’s Not All Bad News
This strain on our wellbeing has brought mental health to the forefront in an unprecedented way. Simply put, we’re paying attention to it like never before because so many of us are struggling.
And while the struggle itself is obviously a bad thing, this new-found interest and concern is long past due.
The Mental Health Baseline
In a typical year, mental illness affects a sizeable segment of the population in the United States:
- Roughly 18% suffer from anxiety, or just over 59 million individuals.
- About 6.7% suffer from depression, or almost 22 million people.
And those are just the reported or diagnosed cases. The actual numbers are likely much, much higher.
Increased expectations, demands of work and family, rising costs of living, concerns about the future, and an overall sense of unease can result in general anxiousness.
Too much of that, and our coping mechanisms start to fail, which can lead to depression. Far from just feeling ‘sad’, depression is an overwhelming sense of despair that can impact the way we feel, think, and behave. Left untreated, it can become debilitating.
Millennials and Gen Z can be particularly affected by this, living in the most tech-based and connected world from any point in our history. Theirs has been a digital existence from day one, and the hours spent on social media can lead to distorted online identities, inauthentic comparisons with others, and mindless distraction.
Factor in increasing responsibilities, relationships, substances, world events, education, studies, late nights and early mornings, and this assault on our body, mind, and soul becomes constant and exhausting.
Knowing that, it’s easy to see why being aware of it and reclaiming our mental health is so essential in any year, but especially in 2020. Silence and a space for contemplation, making sense, and gaining clarity must be sought out.
Otherwise, we run the risk of getting mentally smothered and losing our sense of self.
The Mental Check-in
To begin with, we need to understand that all of us experience strains on our mental health from time to time. It’s completely normal.
Some tolerate it, others ignore it, some manage to cope, and still others end up seeking medication or therapy to deal with it. There’s no cookie-cutter solution that works for everyone.
Ignore it for too long, though, and that psychological stress can start to present itself as psychosomatic body symptoms. Our minds can literally make our bodies sick.
That’s why it’s so important to take inventory of how your body feels when you’re stressed or anxious. Is your heart racing? Is your breath fast and shallow? Are you experiencing soreness, pain, or stiffness anywhere? Take note.
When something triggers our stress response, we try and adapt to it to make sure it won’t happen again. These changes to our behavior, way of thinking, or action may be effective in the short-term, but they often aren’t sustainable in the long run.
And That Can Lead To Burn Out
In a perfect world, we’d be able to take a day off, catch our breath, lean into that strain, and find an answer for it. Unfortunately, that’s a luxury many of us don’t have.
Instead, we continue doing the same old thing that led to the burn out in the first place. Our quality of sleep, energy level, concentration, sense of self, and overall mental health all take a hit.
What’s worse, this can spill over from one area of our lives into all others, leaving us stressed, anxious, and agitated all the time. From there, people turn to self-medicating, substance and alcohol abuse, sex, gambling, and other “solutions” that are more harmful than the problems they’re meant to solve.
So, how do you cope?
If you don’t know, it’s time to find out.
The chance to acknowledge and improve our mental health is better now than ever before.
We have the tools and understanding. But we also have new sources of distraction, misinformation, hindrances, and opportunities to maintain the status quo. So, we must choose to make mental health a priority by asking questions and seeking answers.
What’s the current state of your mental health, both temporarily and overall?