2020 shaped us mentally in that it made us aware of life as we have not known it before. It made us slow down and be more aware of our surroundings and our relationships. How vulnerable we all are, how things can change at any moment, how nothing is assured and most importantly to check how we are feeling and the health of our relationships.

2020 forced us to take a long hard look at our lives, who we spend time with, what we spend money on, and to prioritize those closest to us, to give more time to self-care and to also look at other ways we can make a living besides what we have always been doing. It made us aware of how we all affect each other globally and that no man is an island and how we really go through the same things regardless of our geographical location. We also began to appreciate and show gratitude to first responders and those in the front lines of the pandemic.

Mental health was impacted in two major ways all resulting from stress; Depression and Anxiety. Depression because of losses incurred or adverse changes. For example, no longer being at work full time, spending more time at home, some being unemployed, moving back to their parent’s homes or downsizing e.g. moving to smaller apartments. Some relationships did not survive this change. No one was prepared for this new normal. It was sudden, confusing, and frightening. There was so much information, disinformation, and misinformation out there. People went into panic mode. Secondly stress caused anxiety. Which is uncertainty for the future. People ran around bulk buying and stockpiling in anticipation for a worsening pandemic. It was tough not to worry and ruminate about what the future may hold. 

Conversations around mental health took centre stage in talk shows, news channels and reality programs. Celebrities spoke out as the world unravelled. Perhaps for the first time ever people realised just how much mental health affects everything else, our ability to full function as individuals. So many people sought the help of trained mental health professionals to unpack and make sense of the world around them, and how they can be empowered to not only survive the pandemic but to live full healthy lives. 

Ways to deal with future uncertainty in useful and resilient ways

  1. Stay prepared for any eventualities, it could mean saving a little bit more money.
  2. Never relax and take anything for granted.
  3. Constantly look for ways to earn more income, it could be another job opportunity or entrepreneurial opportunities that one could fall back on in hard times.
  4. Evaluating our spending habits to see if there are ways, we could reduce expenditure, and get by on much less than before, e.g. a smaller house, smaller apartment, more affordable schools etc.
  5. 2020 also shed more light on those less fortunate than us prompting us to consider our excesses and privileges and to give away what we do not need.

Helpful and positive mental health habits to adopt

  1. Rest and get enough sleep –Doing nothing is crucial to mental health as it helps us slow down and recharge. Always being busy puts us under pressure and impacts our mental wellness negatively. Plan your day, week or month and do one thing at a time. Slice your goals thinly and do not take up too much all at once. Avoid multitasking where you can, delegate some tasks to others. It also helps to let go of what one cannot control and focus on what they can control. 
  2. Self-care, exercise, drink more water, eat a balanced diet, take a walk, or spend more time outdoors- A healthy body means a healthy mind. When one is intentional about their self-care, it gives them a sense of control and calm in their lives which could improves one’s mood and outlook in life thereby reducing stress. If you cannot control how fast and widely the pandemic is spreading, do your bit and look after the one thing you can control, which is you. 
  3. Have fun, dance, laugh and spend time with loved ones -This will release feel good endorphins in the body and help foster a sense of security. That it is not all that bad. It is important for us not only to be realistic about the world but to also be grateful about the goodness that exists around us. 
  4. Mindfulness, deep breathing exercises and meditation -These will help clear and calm your mind and teaches you to focus. Which is a cure for a panicky or roaming mind. Whenever it gets too much, go to a quiet place, and breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Do this as often as you need to get back to a state of calm. You can also download meditation apps like Head space for guided meditation exercises. 
  5. Take a social media break -There is a lot of information overload out there which can exacerbate stress. Going offline is one way of fortifying the mind.  Replace social media with healthy and safe ways of nourishment such as reading books or Journaling, get creative and do puzzles or any craft of your choice such as knitting or learn how to play the guitar. 
  6. Make it a habit to talk to a trained professional -To treat mental illness the same way we would treat physical illnesses. To remove the stigma surrounding mental health disorders. Talking about our fears and insecurities or anxieties helps us offload them, reframe them positively and get a fresh perspective. It also empowers us to find solutions. 

Ways of dealing with loss

  1. If you lost a loved one, do not try to set any new goals or make life changing decisions, allow yourself to grieve them and rest and life can always begin again when you feel better. See how you can keep their memory alive in your life and share those moments with those who knew them.
  2. If you lost a relationship, take time to find yourself again and give yourself time to process the difficult emotions and heal. Do not feel compelled to jump into a new relationship again.
  3. If you lost income, do not be afraid to ask for help where you need it, get support from friends and family during this time, whatever little they can help you with, goes a long way in making a difference. It is important to keep your CV up to date and to be aware of what is out there in the job market. If you have always wanted to scratch an entrepreneurial itch, ask yourself what would you rather be doing if it was not for money? Is there a way to monetize that?

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