Mental Health Pressures Due To Pandemic
Life is unpredictable. One minute everything is going its usual course, and then, out of the blue, the whole world turns upside down. The events of last year hit every one of us. How did it impact our mental health, and what can we do to cope with the continuing and deepening uncertainty?
Twin Rivers recognises the global struggle which is why we have included ‘pandemic Fatigue’ into our list of mental health disorders that we can treat. Addiction and mental health disorders are rising at an alarming pace as more and more people feel totally ‘unheld’ and somewhat helpless! Twin Rivers will happily assist you and help you during these extremely challenging times.
Unpredictability and Mental Health
Unpredictability and uncertainty are major factors for stress and directly impact our physical and mental health on a profoundly serious level.
Not knowing and not being able to predict even the slightest thing is an unpleasant experience, it is bad enough just dealing with weather unpredictability for example! As human beings, we instinctively try to foresee and control the changes that are happening around us. It lets us understand, and it gives us a sense of safety.
Although it is normal to see uncertainty as an uncomfortable experience, for some people, it is unbearable to handle. Psychologists have suggested that intolerance of uncertainty may seriously impair our mental wellbeing, contributing to several other disorders including substance abuse.
The large-scale uncertainty and unpredictability that many people have encountered since the coronavirus pandemic is much more difficult to handle than the usual daily obstacles.
If the uncertainty and unpredictability of life are too big for us to process, it can add to our worry and anxiety causing preoccupation and obsession. We can feel completely unable to cope with the change and unpredictability that life is throwing on us leading to a level of ‘shutdown’ and denial in some cases. It is understandable to feel defeated and depressed and yet we can give ourselves a hard time for not being more robust!
How Our Brains Process Unpredictability
Not only does uncertainty make us feel anxious and stressed, but it also disrupts our ability to plan for the future.
Normally, our minds make decisions about the future based on our previous experience. If the future is unpredictable or we are experiencing something different, we cannot rely on previous experience to guide our decision-making. That is why the fear of the unknown also leads our minds to worry over something that hasn’t even happened yet which is a form of unhealthy projection.
Without the ability to rationally predict the future, we can become anxious about what is going to happen, create unnecessarily challenging scenarios, worry about them, and can make poor impulsive decisions such as closing a business to soon or ending a relationship!
People with low tolerance to uncertainty are often found suffering from certain psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Unfortunately, this kind of profile can be linked to the increased number of suicides globally since the pandemic started.
On the other hand, greater tolerance to uncertainty will substantially reduce stress levels in everyday life, and people are not fixating on uncertainties that they cannot possibly control.
How to Deal with Unpredictability?
It is important to note that, in the light of ongoing events, we are not entirely powerless. We can still choose how to respond to the situation. If you have a hard time dealing with the present chaos, here are few things you should do to take care of your mental health:
- Build your tolerance and stay positive.
Building a strong foundation of inner strength provides resilience and greater management of your mind and behaviour so that you can cope with any situation.
Your positive outlook is the key to everything. It is an asset in an unpredictable situation. Sometimes what seems to be a complete catastrophe may have some good aspects that we are not aware of at some point in time.
Even getting fired from work during the coronavirus epidemic could potentially turn out well and lead to a better direction. Loss or failure may give rise to motivation and desire to achieve something better.
Depression is understandable but feeling sorry for yourself is TOTALLY non-productive!
- Let go and focus on things you can control.
You can manipulate people and situations, but what you cannot do is ‘force’ things to go your specific way.
Accepting the uncertainty of life is crucial to maintaining mental health, as events will always be beyond your total control.
When you find yourself worried, take your time and recognize the things you control. Separate what is under your power and what is not in your control. Recognise that sometimes all you can control is your effort and your attitude.
To have the most positive impact on your mental wellness, focus on improving your behaviour and your daily habits and moods. Be a role model and set yourself healthy boundaries. Take the opportunity to make small improvements to your life such as regular exercise for example. It will help you cope more effectively with surprises and events that are beyond your control.
Even though life’s unexpected twists and turns cannot always seem positive, it is important to be honest about how much control you have. Life is uncertain, but the way we react to its situations is within our control as many of us are wired to over-react and get despondent.
- Stay connected and reach out for help.
Speak to someone you can trust and tell them how you feel, remember it is extremely important to take the right information to the right people, speaking to a professional is far more productive than advice from family and friends who are in exactly the same situation as you are! If you suffer from anxiety and depression, it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to a mental health specialist for assistance. No one should try and deal with this situation alone.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process