In my wonderful state of New Jersey, doctors in an urgent care diagnosed our states first COVID-19 case on March 4, 2020. We now enter our fifth week of this outbreak. To say that this has been anything short of a clusterf*ck would be an understatement. Every day another piece of normalcy feels like it has been stripped out from underneath of us. Simple everyday activities like going grocery shopping turned into an Olympic event. More preparation goes into sanitizing yourself when you come home than going out for a night on the town.
Last week our governor added an additional thirty days onto our lockdown. I was not surprised. I expect this to go on until early summer at least. What I was unprepared for was the surge in emotional and mental crises that took place. I work with around a dozen families on a weekly basis, providing in-home mental health counseling to youth and adolescents. Just about every single kid and parent I work with experienced some sort of issue.
One parent described the child as having a “short fuse.” A twelve-year-old I see asked his classmates on Google Classroom how his peers would feel if something happened to him. One young lady started cutting again after being clean for over two months. She admitted to me that she isolates herself to her bedroom now and started having suicidal thoughts.
Of course, not every case is as extreme. However, I noticed my clients, friends, family members, and colleagues feeling the stress of COVID-19. Its reach goes well beyond those of the infected.
It almost feels inevitable that there is a looming mental health crisis once life gets back to “normal.” People will be under financial pressure. We will have to unhinge our revised lifestyles to return back to old habits. Damaged relationships from the constant tension will need to mended. Those already with mental illness will require assistance returning back to baseline.
I guess what I am trying to get is do not neglect your mental and emotional health through these difficult times. We, together as a society, are experiencing a collective traumatic experience. Nearly everyone I know is getting hit with the effects of COVID-19 one way or another. Even as a counselor, I feel the pressure building. I cannot access my typical self-care outlets (i.e. going to the gym, going to the park, playing billiards). It seriously got to me last week. I literally had to take two days off from work just to recharge.
As a mental health counselor and an expert on emotional well-being, I am struggling. It is going to be much more difficult for the average person. Please be mindful, and keep yourself in mind.
-The Caring Counselor
For tips on COVID-19 self-care tips, check out last week’s post.