Home Office Coronavirus; provided by Pixabay

It has been said before and it shall be said again, we are living in unprecedented times.

The last time the world experienced a global pandemic of this magnitude was in 1918 with what is commonly known as Spanish Influenza. The virus infected 500 million people worldwide and 50 to 100 million deaths are attributed to it. Much like now, ways of combating the virus included social distancing, face masks in public, and limits on public gatherings; and while the Spanish Influenza can create a framework of what can be expected with COVID19, the viruses are significantly different. This means we are kind of flying by the seat of our pants. In other words, unprecedented.

This unprecedented experience can lead to a range of mental health concerns that are difficult to identify. Things such as a loss of focus or exhaustion can easily be attributed to a lack of sleep or too much caffeine. However, according to psychologists, many of these struggles are linked to the COVID19 pandemic.

Insomnia, intense loneliness, forgetfulness, excessive worry, inability to concentrate, apathy, and burnout have all been recognized as symptoms of the stress and anxiety caused by COVID19.

“The pandemic is a recipe for depression and anxiety,” says director of the University of British Columbia Psychology Clinic Dr. Ingrid Söchting. She states that the removal of social interactions and human connection has left many struggling.

COVID19 has affected our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis — our biological stress response (the fight or flight response) — by creating a constant sense of imminent danger which leads to the continual release of stress hormones.

Another frustrating effect of COVID19 is how people’s efforts and work toward managing other mental health conditions can be undermined during this time. Post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and other conditions can be triggered by the increase in stress and anxiety.

“We’re very quick to minimize our sad and painful feelings,” psychologist and grief counsellor Ashley Mielke said in a Huffpost article. “There’s a lot of talk of, ‘You have to exercise, you have to be positive,’ but that’s only half of it. What about all these big emotions that everybody’s feeling but nobody knows how to talk about or how to acknowledge them?”

Being easy on one’s own self and trying to identify your feelings are two important components of coping with the mental health concerns brought about by COVID19.

Creating structure through a routine is also important. Waking up at the same time every morning, making breakfast, designating consistent study times, and scheduling a walk can all help shape your day.

As well, it is vital to keep connected to others. Brain Injury Canada compiled a list of different ways to interact with others and create connections. Everything from Zoom, Skype, and Houseparty apps to watching online concerts or writing a good old fashion letter.

And although there are pathways people can take themselves to help manage their COVID19 related stress and anxiety, it is okay if you or someone you know is struggling. Reaching out for support or professional help is smart, healthy, and an act of self-care. Never be afraid to ask for help!

Mental Health Resources:

UBCO Counselling & Mental Health - call 250 807 9270 or email healthwellness.okanagan@ubc.ca to book an appointment.

Kelowna mental health resources here.

British Columbia mental health resources here.

Crisis Lines:

Kelowna crisis line is available 24/7: 1 888 353 2273

Suicide crisis line: 1 800 784 2433

Vets4warriors: 1 855 838 8255