It’s hard to meet anyone who doesn’t know about the coronavirus pandemic.
And while I sincerely hope that you’re observing physical distancing, wearing your mask in public, and washing your hands frequently to help prevent another wave of this invisible enemy, there’s another wave I believe we ought to pay attention to – and that’s the wave of mental health effects that this pandemic has brought upon us.
Things were fine in the beginning
Let me tell you a story.
When the entire world seemed to be overcome by the coronavirus pandemic all at once, many countries – including mine – resorted to strict lockdowns in an attempt to flatten the curve.
Being on lockdown meant we couldn’t leave our homes for any non-essentials; so no traveling (even commuting to and from work), no staying in public spaces (goodbye, coffee shop productivity), and especially no social interactions.
In the beginning, I found myself thinking that the imposed quarantine made no significant change in my regular routine. After all, I’d been working from home for ages as a small business owner. I lived smack in the middle of a bustling city so deeply wrought by traffic that seeing my busy working friends was more of a rarity than a regular occurrence.
The most that quarantine gave me was an inconvenience. I could no longer enjoy leisure activities I loved, like window shopping around malls, going to the movies, or just packing my things to work at a nearby coffee shop.
My introverted nature also wasn’t too concerned about the ban on social activities. I was used to working alone, eating alone, and limiting my interactions with friends and family in the name of personal boundaries and respecting my own energy and needs.
And things were okay, for a while. The most stressed I felt in the beginning was wondering why I wasn’t the poster child for quarantine productivity (even, ironically, as a productivity coach for content creators and creative entrepreneurs). But even that passed quickly, after I re-introduced much-needed self care practices in my life.
And then, they weren’t
Fast forward to about four-and-a-half months later. We’re still in quarantine. And my country in particular was not seeing signs of any curve – much less flattening it.
I woke up one day, feeling totally drained, hopeless, and extremely unmotivated. All I could think about was the uncertainties of the future: what if my business couldn’t sustain itself the longer this pandemic affected our economy? How could I increase my prices or launch new products in this climate? How would I go to a hospital if I got sick, even if I had something that didn’t indicate COVID-19?
And this feeling dragged on for days. Weeks.
I remember not being able to do simple tasks – like responding to an email or comment – as easily as I used to. Tasks that used to take me an hour or two suddenly took up my entire day. My priorities per day were unclear, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any semblance of productivity, even when I was using my favorite tactics and strategies.
Eventually, someone pointed out to me that I was very likely experiencing cabin fever. And when I looked it up, it turns out they were right. I checked every box, every feeling, every symptom – it seemed that even an introvert that was used to working and staying home was reaching her limit.
It can happen to anyone
Maybe you’ve experienced the same things I have. Maybe you haven’t yet.
Either way, conversations with many friends and blog readers have led me to the realization that we need to pay attention to our mental health now more than ever. It doesn’t matter if we’re sitting at home comfortably, if the biggest inconvenience city-wide quarantines and travel bans brought us is not being able to see our friends for that weekly get-together.
Absolutely anyone can experience mental health lows. They don’t need to be diagnosable disorders either – just like you can experience physical pain without having a diagnosable, “formal” disease.
What you may be experiencing is something different altogether. Maybe what you’re experiencing isn’t cabin fever, but something else. BetterHelp, for instance, has defined anxiety in different ways – each of which can apply to anyone, even you, and especially now.
How to watch out for your mental health in 2020
Even if you’re feeling fine as a fiddle, you’ll never know when a mental health low hits (just like it did to me). And because I’m always about actionable tips and advice, here are some actionable ways you can stay on top of your mental health especially in 2020.
Keep a mental health journal
I believe in the power of monitoring, most especially for helping us identify any roadblocks as they come. Monitoring your mental health in a journal (even if it’s just logging the general feelings and emotions you felt in a few words) can help us do just that.
This way, you can track exactly how long you might have been feeling down or anxious. And if anything has been going on for much longer than you expected, you can seek any help you may need.
Observe your energy
We’re dealing with a lot of things in this age of coronavirus. It should be no surprise that some days aren’t going to be as “productive” as others. When this happens, acknowledge that this is all part of the process, and remind yourself that resting and regaining energy is part of productivity.
Talk to professionals or join support groups
You don’t have to go through whatever it is you’re going through alone. You can keep in touch with your own mental health by staying in contact with people who’ll always check in with you and see how you’re doing.
Being part of social groups, even online, can be a great way to show ourselves that we aren’t alone. And if we really need the help, here’s your reminder that seeking professional help is important.
There is nothing wrong with needing to speak to a therapist or counselor. After all, if we’re more than willing to talk to a doctor when something doesn’t feel right in our arms or stomach or legs, we should have that same mindset when we’re dealing with more mental stress than we can carry on our own.