Several weeks ago, we were happily going about our daily lives, taking things for granted, sometimes complaining about the traffic and occasionally stressed by life in general. Enter COVID-19. Suddenly our world was turned upside down and all our assumptions of everyday life were shattered. No person alive in Australia has experienced such a sudden and swift and dramatic change in their existence as they knew it.
Job loss and financial hardship can cause depression and anxiety
Individually and collectively we are all now experiencing living through loss. Tragically some have lost their lives and there are many grieving families, many have lost their livelihoods, and we have all lost the freedom and find ourselves in social isolation. All these losses come with a higher price, the secondary losses such as financial hardships identity change (being employed to jobless), and uncertainty surrounding the future. For many of us we have for the first time been confronted with our thoughts about our own vulnerability and mortality. Every day there is more bad news, more deaths and increasing cases. Every few days the possibility of an announcement of a full lockdown This is a powder keg for many experiencing depression, stress and anxiety. Being uncertain and isolated, feeling sad, hopeless and anxious, people often look to self sooth.
People will turn to alcohol and drugs to self sooth
Often people may turn to alcohol or drugs in these times. The ability of drinking small amounts of alcohol can temporarily diminish or obliterate ruminative thinking and therefore find temporary comfort. The risk of dependence becomes a reality as the person needs to gradually increase their consumption to gain the same effect. The paradox here is whilst a person’s blood alcohol concentrate BAC) increases they feel relief, as their BAC falls, they will experience stress and anxiety which exasperates their already negative feelings This often results in restlessness, irritability and being short fused which impacts the person and their family.
Relationships will break down and we will see a spike in domestic violence cases
Being confined at home with our partner or family over a long period coupled with the stresses of COVID-19 will exasperate any cracks in their relationship. Little things we may have let go could begin to niggle us and before we know it this escalates into a full-on argument. The initial cause of niggle gets put aside and the argument may generate into labelling, name calling, generalising and can result in days of stonewalling or at worst psychological and or physical abuse.
We have never needed to be aware of our mental health and well being as right now. Staying connected to our families and friends is paramount. We need to be creative for instance having ZOOM or SKYPE real time hook ups. Exercise has been proven to uplift our mood as the serotonin and dopamine kicks in. For those under 70 in good health a walk around the block is helpful, and those over 70 if you can keep moving around the house or walking in your garden. Reading, playing board games, talking to friends on the phone or watching uplifting movies at home can while away any boredom.
Most importantly if you are not coping, feel extremely stressed, anxious, depressed or feel like there is no way out contact your GP who may speak to you in person or via telehealth. You can also call beyond blue or suicide help line or reach out to a counsellor to help with your mental health.
This article was written by counsellor and psychotherapist John Arber