For much of 2020 now, you’ve likely been dealing with a sea change of emotions.
Waves of different feelings are probably going through your mind and your soul, trying to adjust and adapt under the challenging and seemingly ever-changing circumstances of COVID-19 and the global coronavirus pandemic.
Is this affecting your day-to-day life? Your mood? Your ability to focus or concentrate?
Do you find all the challenges, from being isolated and having to follow social distancing to the uncertainty of the future, all too overwhelming?
If so, you’re not alone.
In this edition of the Ottawa Youth Counselling blog, we’ll talk about reasons why you’re likely feeling down and unhappy, as well as ways and strategies for dealing with the uncertainty and coping with everything life seems to be throwing at you right now.
Back to School Blues in Ottawa: Depression, Anxiety & Other Emotional Challenges
Whether you’re facing back-to-school time or a continuation of home-schooling, this school year will be like no other before (and hopefully since).
In a “normal” (are you tired of hearing that word yet?!) school year, students would be filled with a series of emotions as school starts back up again in September.
Some of these emotions are, to be sure, quite positive.
You’re excited to see your friends again.
You’re looking forward to making new friends.
You’re eagerly awaiting the social side of school, wondering who will be wearing what, who’s got a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and what kinds of fun and adventure you’ll find yourself getting up to in the coming school year.
That was, of course, life in the pre-COVID era.
As of March 2020, sadly, a lot has changed.
You finished up the previous school year at home. You spent a lot of time in home isolation or quarantine and didn’t have much opportunity to see your friends.
Hopefully, as the summer of 2020 went on, you were able to get out more, see more of your friends and maybe even make new friends.
As the summer winds down (shudder), it’s time to start looking ahead to the new school year.
Of course, now you’re confronted with the new realities of a new school year during a global pandemic.
At the time of this article’s publication, plans were being made to have students in Ottawa and across Ontario & Canada going back to school on a modified program, in many cases with time split between home and school.
How will all this play out? What will end up happening with the school year?
Will a new “surge” occur in the fall, sending us all back home once again?
These and other COVID challenges are causing a great deal of stress and anxiety for many of us. Read on to see what others may be experiencing that’s similar to your challenges, and to get some strategies for coping with these challenges.
Mental Health & Emotional Health in the Age of COVID-19
COVID-19 and the global pandemic of coronavirus has caused widespread changes across virtually all aspects of society.
The majority of adults ended up working at home, at least for long stretches of time. Many still are, at the time of writing.
For families, that has meant sudden changes.
You were home from school and your parents were home from work – how could this even work??!!!
The isolation and time away from friends have placed an even greater level of stress and anxiety on all of us. As time wears on and few answers have appeared, the long-term “COVID fatigue” sets in, and we find ourselves dealing more and
more with emotions such as
… and many others. Among both adults and youth, many people have found themselves dealing with deteriorating conditions of emotional and mental health. Instances of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more are on the rise.
Not that it will necessarily make you feel better to know that others are also struggling or suffering, but that knowing “it’s not you” and “it’s not your fault” is a helpful first step in realizing you can get through this.
The important thing now, once you are coming to terms with what you are feeling and what you are facing, is to become determined to find ways to get through these challenges and live a better life.
Is that easier said than done?
But… it can be done.
The First Step of Coping with Mental Health Challenges
The first step to tackling any problem (if you don’t like the word “problem,” feel free to substitute it with “issue,” “challenge” or any other word/phrase that helps you better address it) is to acknowledge that there is one.
One of the cruel ironies of people facing mental health issues is that, often times, they are either unaware of these issues or are in denial about them.
The reasons are myriad.
Some people are simply not consciously aware of their own challenges. Yes, they may feel
- and/or many other emotional states
What they have not done, however, is make a conscientious connection between these feelings and the larger, root causes that are triggering these emotions.
Other people may be more keenly aware of what they are feeling and even why they are feeling this way, but they are telling themselves “this is fine,” “it’s only temporarily,” “I don’t have time for this,” etc.
That last phrase is big one in this category. Many of us, at one point or another during the course of our lives, have tried to convince ourselves of some iteration of:
- “I can’t deal with this right now”
- “I have too much going on to worry about it”
- “I’m not weak, I’ll be fine”
But those aren’t mutually exclusive! You can, it turns out, be strong and still NOT be fine.
Not dealing with the problems, or focusing on other matters, isn’t going to make those problems go away.
It’s much the same as if you had a broken bone, were bleeding or had another physical ailment. Only proper attention and effort can help make it better.
Once you’ve acknowledged that there is a reason to want to get better, now it’s time to find ways to make it better!
How to Cope with Mental Health Impacts in the Changes & Challenges of the COVID-19 Era
If you’ve previously struggled with mental health issues, you know all about denial and acceptance.
If you are experiencing a heightened emotional state or a ‘relapse’ of your previous issues now, triggered by the changes and uncertainty of the COVID-19 era, your task at hand is to reach back and find the strategies that worked for you before and apply them to this new, albeit unprecedented situation.
For anyone who has not dealt with emotional issues or struggled with mental health challenges in the past, however, this could very well be uncharted territory.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to cope and get through this.
You might start by speaking with a trusted friend or family member, letting them know you’re struggling with some issues and asking them to listen and be compassionate.
Is that a big ask?
It might seem like it.
But most humans want to help other humans. If you have a close friend, a sibling or a parent whom you trust, they will want to help you. And listening to you talk about what you’re struggling with is a great way to help.
Whether you’ve found someone to talk or are too afraid to ask, there are other ways.
Reading about anxiety and/or depression, for example, is a good place to start. There are countless books on the subject, as well as many websites devoted to providing information on mental health. Find the ones that are most trusted, get the best reviews and are backed by sound authority.
Counselling for Mental Health & Emotional Issues
Regardless of whether you have done lots of reading and/or found people close to you with whom you can share your struggles, one of the most effective forms of help when dealing with emotional and mental health matters is to seek counselling or therapy.
If you have ever heard that therapy is “for the weak,” please be assured that nothing could be further from the truth.
Admitting that you have a problem is a sign of STRENGTH.
Seeking help to get through that problem is an even bigger show of strength!
At Capital Choice Counselling in Ottawa, we provide youth counselling as part of our network of experienced, highly trained and very compassionate counsellors, therapists and registered social workers.
If you are struggling with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder or other conditions, we are here to help.
Contact us today to book your first appointment – either in person or online through remote therapy / e-counselling (Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and more).