Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomeWellbeingHow to look after your mental health as pandemic restrictions are lifted

How to look after your mental health as pandemic restrictions are lifted

Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo is a psychologist at Horsham Psychology.

We have all navigated so much in the year since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of us have faced significant changes in respect to the way we live our lives, including how we socialise, study, work and manage family relationships.

The pandemic and mental health

After months of adapting to these changes, many have noticed that they may have mixed feelings about returning to pre-pandemic lives. Areas of uncertainty include socialising with larger groups again and returning to workplaces or study venues.

There is widespread evidence that the pandemic has taken its toll on the emotional wellbeing of many young people.

Research conducted by The Mental Health Foundation and the charity Mind has shown that young people have been significantly impacted by the ongoing restrictions and social isolation.

Data gathered from a study by University College London found an increase in self-reported mental health and wellbeing issues in young people between the period October 2020 and January 2021.

Identified issues impacting young people during the pandemic include missing out on activities and opportunities associated with their age group such socialising, and their future prospects such as education and employment.

Impact on women

Many of the ongoing research studies looking at mental health during the pandemic have shown that women have reported more significant mental health issues than their male counterparts.

Being young and female was associated with higher levels of distress. Women under the age of 25 have been found to be significantly affected as they are more likely to work in areas affected by the pandemic such as hospitality and leisure.

Navigating uncertainty

For many people, there is a feeling of uncertainty as we navigate the proposed government exit plan.

When we experience uncertainty, we can naturally find ourselves striving for control. There may be much that is still out of our control right now. However, there will be things that we can focus on that are within our control such as how and when we socialise and elements in respect to how and when we study and work. It is helpful to utilise your autonomy and assertiveness where you can, in respect to how you communicate with others about what you are ready to do and how you want to do it.

Be aware of the urge to compare yourself with others in respect to immersing yourself into society again and socialising.

Go at your own speed

It is okay to navigate the coming months in your own way and create your own personalised exit plan. We may be fearful of rejection or criticism if they do not feel ready to socialise in the same way as others. We may feel pressure to then engage in social activities we are not yet ready for, and this can lead to increased anxiety for some.

Another way of managing uncertainty and anxiety is to revisit boundaries in terms of your relationships, study, work, and leisure time.

As a result of the pandemic and restrictions imposed, many have reported that they have observed a shift in boundaries in many of these areas, due to having to study, work and socialise from within our homes. You may have observed that your normal routines have been significantly impacted.

For many people having clear boundaries in these areas helps to separate different elements of their life and prevent overwhelm. It is a great exercise in autonomy too, which is evidence-based to increase self-esteem, self-worth, and overall wellbeing.

The importance of self-care

The basics of self-care are also important at this time.

Nourishing yourself with nutritious food, hydrating well and regularly, having a regular sleep routine where possible, moving your body, exercising, and of course taking some time out to focus on yourself.

Taking some time away from study, work and socialising, and focusing on yourself can help combat uncertainty and anxiety.

Limiting media consumption and social media use can beneficial if it is a source of overwhelm or distress.

Connecting and talking with others about how you feel is also important. It helps to normalising the myriad of feelings that people are experiencing right now.

Look at how far you’ve come

It is useful to remember that we are super resilient as human beings.

If you were to look back at how you have navigated the pandemic so far you will probably be surprised at what you have achieved.

If you are struggling please contact your GP or local wellbeing service. Charities such as Mind and The Mental Health Foundation are a great source of information at this unprecedented time.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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