Whether or not you have experienced the physical effects of COVID-19 exposure, it’s almost certain that you have or will experience some mental health effects simply from living through this pandemic. Many therapists are referring to it as COVID fatigue, but can you “fight” it and return to some kind of normalcy?
“Fight” might not be the right term, but there are some things that can help.
The Struggle Is Real
While there are not yet any long-term clinical studies on the mental effects of COVID because it’s simply too soon, self-reported survey data is revealing that many, if not most Americans feel that their mental health has been affected by the pandemic. An American Academy of Pediatrics survey reports, “Since March 2020, 27% of parents reported worsening mental health for themselves, and 14% reported worsening behavioral health for their children.”
“This has been a serious hit on our culture,” Dr. Margaret Cochran psychotherapist and LCSW tells Parentology. Parents are experiencing new pressures and stresses that have a trickle-down effect on their families. “It would appear from surveys, we’re hearing about 40% of parents feel like they’re yelling and screaming at their kids more than they ever would normally. That’s a big number. And 25% of parents feel like their mental health has worsened during the pandemic.”
Cochran wants parents to know that they’re not alone in their frustrations. More importantly, she wants them to know that there are some things they can do to help improve their mental health during this stressful time.
Ways to Fight COVID Fatigue
First, Cochran suggests taking stock of your physical health. A simple blood panel could reveal a deficiency that makes all of the difference, such as checking your vitamin D levels.
“Vitamin D is what allows us to keep our bones strong, [as well as] our immune system and our mental health. And a lot of adults in this country have vitamin D deficiency,” she says. If deficient, a simple supplement can get your vitamin D levels back on track, making you feel much better.
Cochran also suggests being mindful about what you put in your body, how you move it, and even what you entertainment you consume.
“Eat well in a balanced way. Exercise in some form. It can be as simple as walking around the block. Some form of mindfulness helps a great deal.” She adds, “Comedy is a huge help—watch a funny movie, watch whatever it is that makes you laugh.”
If you’re looking for some more tactical things that you can do to improve your mental state Cochran suggests EFT or tapping. “Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which a lot of people will refer to that as tapping. Tapping is very effective. We have a lot of good clinical studies on that.” Tapping can be done easily in your own home and there are several free online courses that can help you get started.
However, if Cochran had to choose just one thing to positively impact mental health, she knows exactly what that would be: A gratitude practice.
“Every morning, evening, or both you go through a list of things that you’re grateful for.” She says that this practice can actually change the chemistry in your brain. “The gratitude practice basically creates a new neural circuit of positivity. It will improve your mood; it will improve your energy. It will act as a firewall to other negative thoughts. Studies have shown that in about 21 days you make that new neural circuit and it’s a life-changer. Even if you don’t have depression, it’s a life-changer. It’s something you can do with your kids.”
Taking the time to implement some of these practices may seem indulgent with all that’s going on in the world, but Cochran cautions that the example you’re setting for your children is the most powerful tool you can give them. “If we don’t take care of ourselves and fall apart that’s what we teach them to do in a crisis. Remember to be selfish is to be selfless.”