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Your Post Pandemic Recovery

Building up your mental health.

With the beginning of the 2020 pandemic world shut down almost 16 months behind us, it’s time to reflect on how much our lives have changed in what felt like an eternal and laborious year. Our mental health has suffered, whether you are a parent, a teen, a young adult, an adult, or a child. Pat yourself on making it this far. It’s time to recover from the upheaval we have lived through.

So. Much. Change

As human beings whose primary task is to adapt and survive, we have made many changes to the way we think and perceive safety and danger very quickly. Yes, we can adapt, but that was quick – too quick – and our anxiety adapted in an upward fashion too.

Within one year, we have had to adapt to working from home, school from home, entertainment from home, extra-curricular activities from home, shopping from home, and everything from home.

As much as I love my home, this was way too much home time for me. Our worlds became blended into space at our kitchen table, dining room table, or wherever a table could be set up. We have worked long hours with no boundaries between work and home life. We, very quickly, became teachers, principals, guidance counselors, case managers, and paraprofessionals for our children.

We found masks with patterns, became obsessed with disinfecting our food, hands, clothing, and any surface that could possibly become a breeding ground for the COVID-19 virus. Virtual happy hours became a thing. Every time I hear the word “virtual” and anything else, I cringe.

Our children “went to school” by turning on a computer. OMG. A computer. In one breath, I’m thankful that our children had the guise of their education in an effort to maintain some normalcy; in another one, that was not school. As I’ve been saying for months, education is best served in school.

Many of our children struggled to maintain their attention to a bunch of heads on a screen. Life became one big Brady Bunch theme song frame. Our children lost their motivation, their sense of accountability, their ability to participate in a lesson, ask questions, and truly learn. This past year has been all about the Google Classroom, Google Docs, and the multitude of apps whose names I will likely never remember, nor do I want to.

Newfound Fears

Not that we needed anymore but many of us have newfound fears. As a mom and psychologist, I understand anxiety on a personal and professional level. I have listened to the fears of young children, teens, young adults, and parents for over a year. Fears such as:

  • I don’t want to kill my elderly parents, relatives, etc.
  • What if I’m a carrier but I don’t know it?
  • This virus is bad
  • This virus is deadly
  • What if life never goes back to normal?
  • I’m scared about being in a space with a lot of people
  • How long should I wear my mask?
  • Is this vaccine effective?
  • Should I get the vaccine?
  • Now that I’ve been vaccinated, am I really safe?
  • I’ve missed so much in my life (e.g., graduation, proms, dances) and I’m never getting that back
  • School is not the same and I hate it
  • It’s not fair
  • I’m scared
  • I’m afraid all the time and I can’t stop it
  • I’m afraid to go into the school building
  • I’m afraid to go into my workspace, I don’t want to take my mask off, like, ever

Too Much Togetherness

Yes, it’s possible. Although many of our lives in March 2020 were at their peak “busyness” and we craved a slower-paced life and together time with our families, this was actually too much togetherness.

It’s time to take some time apart. It’s okay for you and your family members to participate in activities in a not-so-together kind of way. For example, you may choose to take an overnight trip with your spouse, alone, or with a friend. If you have a family member or friend who would like to have your child join their family on vacation, let them go.

Rediscover your friendships, connect with family you haven’t seen since the pandemic started, and re-connect with yourself.

Recovering Your Mental Health

Now that it’s summertime and the COVID-19 numbers are starting to decline, take some time to think about what you need to build your mental health.

It’s not okay:

  • To feel tired all the time
  • To feel blah often
  • To struggle to fall asleep and or maintain sleep
  • Struggle with overeating or undereating
  • To feel overwhelmed
  • To feel overstimulated
  • To feel “touched out” by your children because they are with you all day long

These feelings and mood states have become “normal” but they aren’t normal. I don’t want to hear about our “new normal” anymore. I want to get my groove back and so should you.

  • Talk to a therapist – share your private thoughts and feelings in a safe, neutral space that is just for you. Uninterrupted time where you can be heard and feel validated in your fears, concerns. A place to brainstorm and find a good headspace for yourself
  • Move Your Body – We have become sedentary and that breeds lethargy and bad moods. Find something to do – walk, jog, play tennis, find a form of yoga that you like, lift weights. Whatever you want. Just move your body.
  • Journal – Get your swirling thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Find a time of the day where you can “mind dump” and take out a journal, a notebook, a Google doc, an app on your phone – whatever and wherever. Set a two- or three- or five-minute timer and just write what comes to mind. Don’t filter, don’t erase or cross out. Just write. This gives your thoughts a home and a place where you can come back and reference them. If in a few months, you are still writing about the same topic, it’s time to tackle whatever the issue is. A journal also becomes a way for you to physically see how your thought patterns change over time.

Our mental health has suffered over the last almost 16 months. It’s time to reflect on where you are hurting and find ways to help yourself.

More from Liz Nissim-Matheis Ph.D.
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