It’s summer of 2019; your friends are dogging you for missing brunch once again because of your anxiety. You’ve tried explaining to them the reality of your mental health issues, that you’re not simply “being lazy,” but they don’t get it. They don’t understand that the thought of getting in the car, dealing with traffic, having to find a parking space, and being in a loud, crowded restaurant is crippling to you.
One of them ignorantly says, “Dude, I’m hella depressed right now, but I went anyway.” Though she really doesn’t suffer from depression, she’s just tired and perpetually hungover (which may be another issue), and she’s always minimizing your problems by comparing them to her own.
You’re sad. And alone. Feeling like no one understands you and what you’re going through—which makes your anxiety and subsequent depression even worse.
It’s summer of 2020; those same friends are struggling. Each one has had their own battle of varying levels with anxiety and depression throughout the first months of quarantine, dealing with all things coronavirus and the additional social and political stressors. One friend in particular has had to go on anti-depressants; another is seeing a therapist because of what she’s been going through after losing her job, having to move back home with her parents, and suffering the demise of a long-term relationship. Another lost her grandma to COVID.
The people in your life are beginning to recognize and understand what you’ve been experiencing (and trying to explain) for years; what your life was like long before there was a global pandemic, a shit-show of an election year, and a major social and political movement for justice and equality.
Though it’s a shame it’s taken such a chaotic and devastating time in order for many to finally understand what “mental health” means, the conversation has finally been split wide open nonetheless, and many who previously weren’t tuned in to the topic are ready to listen.
Who’s Been Affected?
A recent poll from kff.org shows that “During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019 (figure 1). A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.”
According to the Washington Post, another poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) “found that 45 percent of adults say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent say it has had a ‘major impact’ (figure 8). The rates are slightly higher among women, Hispanic adults and Black adults, the survey found.”
If the polls are accurate, that’s almost 20% of Americans (65,640,000 people) suggesting that COVID has had a “major impact” on their mental health. And almost half of the population saying their mental health has been affected in general.
So, What Do We Do?
It’s no secret now that the mental health care industry needs a lot more attention (and funding) to make resources more available for the tens of millions of Americans who need them.
In the mean time, below are some resources that have drastically risen in popularity since the beginning of stay-at-home, to help ease the everyday symptoms of anxiety and depression. And you can access them immediately from the comfort of your own home.
I don’t know about you, but every time I log in to Instagram, I’m inundated with ads for teletherapy apps such as BetterHelp and TalkSpace. Because of stay-at-home orders, many have turned to teletherapy as an alternative to going in to see the doctor. And according to Kristen Fuller, MD, “Research has shown that teletherapy is as effective as in-person therapy.”
These teletherapy apps can be a great alternative for anyone who is unable to get in to see a therapist or psychologist, and depending on your insurance, they may be more affordable as well.
Additionally, because of websites like YouTube, we have access to vast amounts of healthy coping mechanism videos such as guided meditation, yoga, and at-home workout videos. Below are some channels I recommend.
Taking a few minutes for yourself to quiet your mind and focus on your breathing is a great way to deal with overwhelming stress and anxiety.
I know, I know–you’ve heard it a million times before, and you’ve tried meditating, but your brain just won’t quiet down. I’ve been there too.
Meditation is like going to the gym for your brain. You won’t have the results you desire immediately. It takes time and dedication.
The Calm App
This past summer, smack dab in the middle of quarantine, I began suffering from a terrible bout of insomnia–the kind I hadn’t experienced in years. After weeks of only sleeping 1 to 2 hours per night (usually between the hours of 7-9am) I was at my wits end. I felt like I was losing my mind.
I decided to give meditation one more shot, but didn’t really know where to begin, but so I turned to the “Calm” app I’d heard so much about. The guided meditations, sleep stories, and calming nature sounds were immediately a welcome relief for my troubled brain.
I understand, however, not everyone is willing or able to pay the $69.99 annual price of the Calm app. If you break it down per month, though, it’s only $5.83/month.
If paying for the app is out of the question, I also recommend these free resources below:
Relaxing Sound Bath
Tibetan Singing Bowls
Throughout quarantine, my at-home workout saviors have been Chloe Ting and Caroline Girvan. Both of these amazing (and fit) ladies have tons of workout videos available on YouTube for arms, legs, abs, booty, and total body, and for varying levels of fitness as well (though Caroline tends to be more advanced).
And if you’d prefer a gentler workout that will still get the blood flowing, check out the yoga videos below.
While therapy, exercise, and meditation are important mental health practices, sometimes additional assistance may be required to help you cope with your mental health issues. As always, please consult your physician if you believe you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other mental health problem with which you feel you may need medical assistance.
For more information on irregular symptoms of anxiety, click here
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255