Ahead of the Mental Curve
Mental health care professionals are consistently sounding the same concern - CoronaVirus is going to exact a toll on our mental health for years to come.
I don't want to be an alarmist, but I do want to get ahead of the mental health curve so that we are all better prepared to handle the stresses that are still ahead of us. We will manage them significantly better if we are prepared now, before the strongest wave of the stress hits.
There are several factors that will challenge us:
- Life change in ways I see similar to culture shock.
- Job loss or job insecurity.
- Loss of income.
- Changing retirement plans.
- Sickness or knowing people affected by the virus.
- Lack of normal interpersonal contact.
- Listening to fearmongers (I'm trying hard NOT to be one!).
- Unpredictable future.
- And so on.
What is going on can be felt as trauma, which means that PTSD is a possibility for some. PTSD can strike soon after the events or years later.
Even after we lift all the restrictions, we won't be done dealing with the CoronaVirus.
Take a quick self-assessment: Are you getting less sleep? Do you find that sometimes your breathing is more shallow? Are your thoughts plagued with what-ifs? Do you have some feelings of worry, dread, or anxiety? Chances are, we all are to some extent on occasion.
In order to ward off a severe impact, there are several things we should be doing now:
- Make sure we have a consistent, daily time in the Word and in prayer.
- Get plenty of physical exercise.
- Drop your guard and let people close to you know how you're really (really!) doing. Really.
- Eat a fairly healthy diet.
- Take time to relax, breathe deeply, and stop the busy-ness for a bit.
- Be intentional about connecting with people, if even a call or video call. (Don't rely on email and texting alone.)
- Seek the help of a trained professional if at all needed. Please don't discount this one - there is no shame in going to someone who has dedicated their career to helping us walk in balance. Below is a link to a list of resources to connect you - go ahead and copy and paste them into a file so you always have it.
- Check on one another. Find out how they are really doing. Really.
- However, like the oxygen masks in an airplane, take care of yourself before you help someone else who's having some distress. It's biblical (Acts 20:28).
- Let your shepherding elder know how to pray for you specifically.
Julia Parker, LPC, has put together a great set of resources to help us now before we face any strong stress, including a fantastic video. I've added a few referrals to her list of counselors. Please check out these excellent resources:
You can always, always, always contact me if you're having a rough go. It's completely confidential, and if your situation is beyond my training, I have that list of great referrals at the ready.
This message is not just for this week. We'll need this information for the next few years.
(image: Floris Deerenberg / CC0)