How the pandemic has shown us that we (as a society) need to work on our collective mental health

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s nearly impossible to find a single person in the world whose everyday life wasn’t significantly affected by the pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak brought various consequences on our lives, changed our daily routines, and caused emotional, physical, social, and mental issues.

Misinformation, rumors, and inaccurate beliefs about the virus and vaccines led to even more problems, such as stress, fear, anxiety, and sometimes, loneliness. Therefore, it is no wonder that the pandemic and its accompanying outcomes have already shown the world that our society needs to work on our collective well-being.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic had different effects on different communities, generally, the global effects of the pandemic on the well-being and social relationships of people all over the world are more or less the same (Long et al., 2021). As a  result, it becomes more and more obvious that people need to work together in order to improve our collective mental health and avoid drastic effects on our psychological well-being.

In this blog, we’ll explore the effects of the pandemic on our mental health and explain why taking care of our collective mental health is important. In the end, we’ll also discuss ways to cope with the negative outcomes of COVID-19.

How Did the Pandemic Affect Our Mental Health?

Not only do epidemiologists and virologists try to understand how the pandemic changed our well-being, but mental health professionals, such as counselors, therapists, or psychologists, also seek a deep understanding of how the pandemic affected our emotional and psychological well-being.

An increasing number of studies prove the negative effect of the pandemic on our mental health. In particular, COVID-19 radically changed our family life, work-life and education patterns (Waters et al., 2021). In fact, as a result of the curfews, schools around the world announced shutdowns, employees switched to online working, and communication patterns between family members also changed.

Constant concern about adhering to global or local regulations, washing hands, or keeping a safe distance from others contributed to the global mental health crisis. These are the most common mental health issues that intensify the mental health conditions in most communities:

  • People become depressed, anxious, and traumatized

It’s true that anxiety and mood disorders have always been the most common mental health problems in the world. However, the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions made things even worse. In fact, more than 10,000 respondents in various studies reported worsening symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety (Gao et al., 2020). What’s worse, people around the world also tend to feel traumatized as they experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This means that worsening the symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, and feeling traumatized are some of the most serious effects of the pandemic on our collective mental health.

  • The sense of social connectedness changed

Unfortunately for our society, social isolation has already become part of our everyday lives. As a result of social distancing orders and constantly staging at home to avoid spreading the virus, people lost a sense of social connectedness. However, as Aristotle once said, people are social animals. Belongingness and affiliation are our basic needs. And once an individual no longer feels that they’re members of certain groups of communities, their mental health worsens.

That’s exactly how the pandemic made people feel. We, as a community, no longer feel as connected to each other as before. And consequently, people experience emotional problems such as loneliness and sadness. Specifically, about 1 in 7 adults in the US reported that they often felt lonely during the pandemic lockdowns (McGinty et al., 2020).

  • Our daily lifestyles changed

No matter where you live, chances are that your daily habits and lifestyle have also changed somehow since the pandemic started. How exactly? School and college students had to adjust to line learning, and most employees already realized that working from home might even have some significant advantages. But that’s not everything. People worldwide had to change their plans and avoid social gatherings, celebrating holidays together, or traveling long distances.

While not all the changes are equally negative, it’s obvious that changes often cause stress, and even positive life changes, such as getting a promotion, might make you feel stressed.

  • The increase of discrimination and violence

Studies prove that quarantine and the demand for families to spend more time together lead to increased rates of violence in some communities. In fact, domestic violence in February 2020 was three times higher in Wuhan, China, compared to February 2019. And the tendency is similar in some western European countries too.

Besides, arguments between pro and anti-vaccination news created new forms of discrimination. All of this implies that COVID-19 had a negative impact on social connectedness and worsened our collective mental health.

Why Does Collective Mental Health Matter?

Have you ever noticed that thousands of environmental factors affect our mental health?

A country’s economic condition, pollution, poverty, social relationships, and even others’ well-being are connected to our own emotional and psychological condition. The way others feel significantly affects how you feel. And vice versa, collective mental health influences individual mental health. And therefore, it’s not a big surprise that a concept such as “collective mental health” exists and affects our daily lives.

The truth is, mental health is a collective responsibility. And that’s why we, as adults, have to take care of those in need. Even individual mental health disorders are social problems at the macro level. Thus, we need to work on our collective mental health and show vulnerable people the ways to heal from depression, stress, trauma, and other common issues that drastically affect their ability to function effectively.

How Can We Cope? – Self-care Strategies

The most efficient way to take care of our mental health is to practice self-care. Self-care strategies will help you improve both your emotional state and physical health, and as a result, it will be easier to take charge of your life. Here are some of the most important self-care strategies we should practice on a daily basis:

  • Get enough sleep – Try to have a fixed sleeping schedule and get up every day at the same time you go to bed.
  • Eat healthily – Have a well-balanced diet to support your body with all the necessary nutrients and vitamins.
  • Limit screen time – Although modern life is unimaginable without spending some time in front of the screen, you should try to take frequent breaks in order to avoid stress and fatigue.
  • Communicate with your loved ones – Talking to people you’re close to will help you feel the sense of belongingness that is vital for your mental health.
  • Engage in physical activity – Regular exercises will balance your stress levels and help you feel more energized throughout the day.
  • Relax – Take some time for yourself to reflect on your goals and ideas, increase self-awareness and develop a better understanding of yourself.

Final Thoughts

All in all, since the pandemic continues, taking care of collective mental health is something each member of the community should think about. However, if you notice that you’re vulnerable to practicing self-care or taking care of those around you, don’t hesitate to reach out to mental health professionals at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids. Our counselors will help you identify your problems and deal with them in healthy and efficient ways.

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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