Surviving the Mental Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis

For most people in South Africa, the last two months have been very tough. We’ve been consumed by the additional admin involved in trying to stay safe during the COVID-19 crisis and for some this has been more of a challenge than others. It has taken up time, energy and resources – some of which were already in scarce supply for many.

For those fortunate enough to continue working through the crisis, many changes had to be implemented. Re-organising working conditions and businesses have been cumbersome. Some people have been trying to do their full-time jobs from home while also homeschooling children, and taking care of household duties that might previously have been outsourced. Some might have had no support, or have partners working in essential services who are not at home to help carry the load.

The question is though, have we counted the cost of the mental and emotional toll this has taken on all of us?

Consider for a moment the impact on us caused by the fear, uncertainty, and isolation. There are the lucky few who had the luxury of using lockdown as a gift of extra time for clearing to-do-lists and achieving goals like developing products or learning new skills and languages. For many, this is far from the case.

A large number of people describe the last couple of weeks as the time in their lives that they have actually worked the hardest, and stressed the most. Think of those working in essential services – trying to do their job but with many new challenges on top of their usual demands. Imagine being without an income with little to no prospect of work or income during lockdown.

For them this “motivational pressure” has simply become an additional source of stress and tension. We might all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.

What has the psychological cost been?

Yes, times are tough, and this is hard for people, but when considering the impact on ourselves, are we willing and able to see the full picture? How are you actually feeling? What is going through your mind? Odds are, it’s been hard on you too.

 “Surviving it” is about how you emerge on the other side in terms of every aspect of your life, including in your heart and mind.

Below are some suggestions as to how to increase your awareness of your psychological state, and ease the blow of the crisis for yourself:

  • Accept that it is alright not to be alright:  We can often take pity on others but then apply a “cowboys don’t cry” perspective to our own lives. Allow yourself the space to heal from the impact it has had on you.
  • Write off unnecessary psychological debt:  Are there things that you felt you should have done better? Getting through this is an achievement in itself. Let go of unreasonable illusions of control and you might see that you have achieved enough.
  • Accept reality and face it head-on:  Focus on what is really important.
  • Be present:  Stop focusing on what could have been and don’t become consumed with trying to gain control. Focus on what you can do, and also, what the important people around you need.
  • Talk about it:  When someone asks how you are, tell them. Talking about your challenges with others is a great way of coping and building resilience.
  • Check your mindset:  How we look at things is crucial. The graph below has been doing the round on the internet. Where do you want to be going forward? In the fear zone, complaining and spreading negativity; in the learning zone, dealing with the realities around me in a positive way; or in the growth zone, taking care of yourself and those around you in a meaningful way?

 

COVID-19 will be remembered as one of the defining crises of our time, and even discussed in the same terms as significant social, political, or economic crises in history, including wars, depressions, and natural disasters. During these times, few things are under our control, apart from of course the most important aspect: how we respond.

Taking care of your mental and emotional state will help to get you through this and ensure that there is actually a “normal” to return to, and look forward to.