One Year of Social Distancing

By: Regina Taylor

As we approach the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown and all of the abrupt lifestyle changes that came with it, it is important to continue prioritizing our mental health in any way we can. While research on the direct effects of COVID-19 on mental health is still evolving, there is sufficient evidence of an increase in depression, PTSD, and OCD as a result of the pandemic (Fofana, 2020). Although phrases like “Covid fatigue” and “lockdown depression” have become increasingly trendy, the psychological effects of the pandemic are real and serious, and the feelings of loss, uncertainty, and fear should be talked about and cared about in depth. Even as we come closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, there are ways to cope with these feelings, mainly by staying connected and continually adapting to our new way of life. Still, there are important signs to look for in ourselves and others that may require additional help, and it’s important to recognize that as well. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Arlington, VA, the NAMI hotline has experienced a significant increase in calls related to depression and anxiety in college age students since the start of quarantine (Ellis, 2020). This is largely due to the disruption in their academic and social lives, which started with campuses closing suddenly last March and continued into this year with primarily virtual learning. Other health agencies have collected data showing that 80% of college students stated that they have suffered negative mental health effects due to the pandemic, with 20% having experienced a “significant decline” in their mental health (Ellis, 2020). In addition to anxiety and depression as the most common results of the pandemic on mental health, other impacts include insomnia, emotional fatigue, and signs of post-traumatic anxiety (Fofana, 2020). Self-isolation also brings fears of infecting loved ones, contracting COVID-19 is associated with stigmatization, and there is an increase in fear of the virus itself (Fofana, 2020). 

While these thoughts and emotions can hardly be eliminated, we can learn to cope with them. Psychologists offer some helpful tips on managing these feelings during such stressful times, beginning with acknowledging that the feelings exist and reminding oneself that they are temporary. Other researched advice includes limiting exposure to news and only getting information from reliable sources (Fofana, 2020). Some ways to deal with isolation include spending time talking to loved ones and friends virtually, giving yourself regular mental breaks, and picking up a new routine during quarantine. Some activities suggested by psychologists to add include morning walks, daily journaling, and exercising. Most importantly, try not to engage in catastrophic thinking and – as cliche as it sounds – encourage positive thoughts to remedy stress. 

There will be positive and productive days during lockdown, but there will also be days when things feel stressful and uncertain and you simply need a break. Still, it is important to recognize when you are feeling hopeless and helpless, or just need extra support managing your feelings. Here are some good places to start. 

  • Therapist Referrals: Psychology Today, Mental Health America, school counseling offices
  • Talk or Text Therapy: Talkspace, BetterHelp, Trusst
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: 741741

Reference List:

Ellis, S. (2020). The growing mental health effects of covid-19 for young adults. Retrieved February 21, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/In-The-News/2020/The-Growing-Mental-Health-Effects-of-COVID-19-for-Young-Adults?feed=In-the-news

Fofana, N., Latif, F., Sarfraz, S., Bilal, Bashir, M., & Komal, B. (2020, September). Fear and agony of the pandemic leading to stress and mental illness: An Emerging crisis in the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Retrieved February 21, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7833263/

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