While the world is grappling with the global onslaught of COVID-19, focusing on the physiological impact of the virus on its victims, there’s another widespread issue that has been largely ignored: mental health. The pandemic has taken a large toll on people’s emotional wellbeing, but its other effects, such as the economic blowback and ensuing recession, have taken center stage.
COVID-19 is largely physical in nature, but its consequences on our mental health are equally important. In fact, there have been movements all over the world to destigmatize mental health discussions, because untreated emotional issues can be just as debilitating as physical ailments. This is why prioritizing your mental health, now more than ever is crucial to surviving this pandemic.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
In order to understand this further, we must first take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Dr. Abraham Maslow designed this hierarchy to explain how people are driven to action by their needs. The needs that must be met first are physiological—having food, shelter, drinkable water, and sleep. Once this is taken care of, humans move to the next step, which is safety and security.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic, this step has been more difficult for people to reach. Many people lost their jobs because of social distancing protocols and business closures, which makes it more difficult to buy enough food or pay for rent. Even if they haven’t lost their jobs, the restrictions in place to combat COVID-19 have caused people to feel scared and unsafe. This makes it more difficult for them to focus on their tasks.
This pandemic has called for people to pay special attention to their mental health, as this is largely affected by the general uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Focusing on simply surviving this period, which means fulfilling basic needs and attending to emotional unease and distress, should be the highest priority. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures, so regular priorities such as excelling at work or performing well at school must take a backseat to physical and mental health.
Why Mental Health is Important
When people feel scared or unsafe, it changes the way they behave—not only to themselves or to other people, but to life in general. People may feel unmotivated to focus on their work because their basic needs aren’t met. In fact, it can be hard for them to concentrate on anything—and this is perfectly okay.
The state of our mental health is extremely crucial in everyday life. It’s what helps us navigate our day, approach our lives, and complete tasks. If we are constantly feeling overwhelmed even though we may not be physically busy, it can be difficult to get anything done. Learning to manage our emotions healthily is key to getting through this difficult time. Part of this is knowing that feeling stressed or anxious is a reasonable response—especially to an unprecedented global event.
If left unchecked and untreated, our emotional wellbeing will deteriorate, just like our physical health. This can lead to crippling illnesses, like depression, which can be catastrophic.
Handling Emotional Triggers
One step towards prioritizing your mental health during COVID-19 is learning how to deal with emotional triggers. Take inventory of what you usually do in a day and what stirs up certain emotions in you. Is reading the news emotionally exhausting? Is discussing the current state of events exacerbating your anxiety?
While it is important to keep abreast of what’s going on in your area and in the world, it’s also important to observe its effect on your emotional wellbeing. If the impact is negative, limit your exposure to your triggers to once a day or even a week. Remember that your survival is the most important thing in your life, and that includes taking care of your mental health.
Once you’ve identified what makes you upset, you can learn how to handle triggers. This can be done through introspection and reflection, like a journal, or better yet, seeking psychological support from professionals. You can start by listing what triggers you and what exactly it makes you think and feel, and unpack that further. If you decide to seek professional help, this list can also give them valuable insight into your mental state.
COVID-19 has impacted the world in numerous, and possibly irreversible, ways. The way we interact with people or even move from place to place has now been adjusted to accommodate the new normal. These changes are difficult to cope with—and that’s okay. Know that you are not alone, and there are plenty of starting points to give you the help you need.
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