The breadth of issues in 2020
2020 saw numerous events that by themselves were significant enough to take a toll on our mental health.
The year began with some of the worst bushfires Australia has experienced, the stock market crashed, and the United States saw rising tensions in its population owing to several social and political factors – to name a few. Meanwhile, all of this was occurring during a global pandemic and subsequent restrictions to follow.
Victorians experienced some significantly onerous restrictions during 2020 to combat the spread of Covid-19. We endured social isolation from friends and family, had limited access to our community, fewer options to engage in supports and services, and our children were schooled from home. These experiences were mostly unexplored territory for us, even unprecedented. Moreover, with other additional complexities that resulted from Covid-19 - such as possible financial hardship or simply the unknown of what the future held - it is not surprising that this year has had an impact on our mental health.
The effects on Mental Health
To begin with; rates of anxiety, stress and depression have increased in a significant number of individuals. Additional symptoms of deteriorating mental health, such as poorer sleep, inattention, and interpersonal issues, have also been more apparent. Furthermore, individuals with pre-existing psychological or neurological conditions may have experienced exacerbated symptoms owing to the associated factors of restrictions.
Children and adolescents especially have endured several changes in their school environment this year, which can deprive them of the psychological safety that a stable structure and routine provides. Students in schools also demonstrated more conduct and behavioural issues, often merely an expression of their frustration or anxiety regarding environmental or interpersonal factors. Many teachers and parents also reported more assist inattention or impulsivity within the home and the classroom – again, often explained by newly experienced environmental factors.
What can help?
Fortunately, there is substantial evidence demonstrating that several coping strategies can be useful in addressing these issues.
Firstly, understanding that it is normal to feel stressed, worried, sad, or angry during the pandemic can already improve your overall mindset. Normalising these feelings for you, your friends or your family can reduce anxiety before you begin implementing specific coping mechanisms.
Regarding more practical strategies; maintaining a consistent sleep routine, regularly exercising, and engaging in social contacts can all assist in improving overall mental health. For more specific mental health exercises, practising mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, or even writing down how you are feeling can help.
Of course, it is best to try several of these strategies, and see which ones work best. Also remembering that consistency over time is what helps predict the positive outcome of improved wellbeing.
If you notice your children or other family members have started to display signs of poorer mental health, reach out and have a discussion with them about how they are feeling. Expressing their thoughts and emotions to a loved one can often provide a sense of catharsis or support for them. Our clinic can also provide additional resources for assisting you or your children in coping with any of these symptoms.
Lastly, unhealthy coping habits (such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy foods) may seem effective in the short term; however, these habits often increase the problem in the long-term.
Seeing a psychologist
It can also be helpful to see a psychologist if you or someone you know could use support for their mental health. Our team will assess what is impacting you, then use a range of psychological treatment models to target the issue. We can help by providing additional coping strategies, discussing psycho-education, utilising cognitive and behavioural therapy, or using other forms of psychological treatments.
Our psychologists work with a wide range of presentations and demographics; some of which include children, adolescents, adults, families, and couples.
We have immediate capacity to help...
If you or someone you know could benefit from seeing one of our psychologists, contact the clinic to book a session in.
- Tim van der Veur