As of 2022, the world has officially entered the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. With constantly changing lockdown rules, fluctuating transmission rates, and new variants popping up, it can be difficult to view the future as anything but disastrous.
Our negative feelings about the future, and related depression and anxiety, are legitimate, but it can help to remember they may not accurately reflect reality. Focusing on the positives and utilizing mental health services and self-help practices can do a lot to keep these feelings under control while we prepare for an uncertain — but hopefully less confusing — future.
When an event as widespread and traumatic as the COVID-19 pandemic occurs, its effects persist far beyond the initial outbreak. Humans are a social species, so it has been a difficult time for most of us, for many different reasons.
The truth is, it may take years for many of us to fully recover mentally. Experts advise recognizing the silver lining — the universal aspect of the pandemic has improved mental health awareness, making help and treatment accessible to more people.
Another benefit to arise from the pandemic is the fact that more people feel better equipped to handle future challenges. Respondents to a Cleveland Clinic survey reported that the pandemic caused them to feel more empathetic towards others and increased their desire to help other people.
Many individuals also discovered new, positive coping behaviors that will allow them to handle future stress and anxiety.
While many people feel that the pandemic made them more resilient, it is still completely natural to feel lost when thinking about the future. As our individual situations change, our feelings about COVID and the future may also change.
It can help to focus on specific, important aspects of our lives, like physical and mental health, and make a conscious effort to change our negative mindsets, setting boundaries on how heavily we let the pandemic seep into our lives.
Our mental and physical health are deeply intertwined. Depression and anxiety can make it difficult to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly, but a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to these mental health issues, creating a vicious cycle for some.
Make sure to get enough sleep and participate in regular physical activity. Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, as they can reinforce negative coping habits and reduce positive coping abilities.
Cutting out stressors is a major part of learning to cope with an unsure future. While social media can be a great source of companionship, it also quickly becomes a well of negativity and dread. People who find themselves “doomscrolling” should take a break from their social media feeds.
While this can be difficult, experts recommend starting with avoiding “catastrophizing.” Essentially, the mind jumps from scenario A to outcome Z, even though most of the situations from B to Y are not probable. Recognizing this is the first step in stopping the behavior.
One of the biggest parts of a strong coping strategy is setting up boundaries. All that "extra" time can lead to taking on too much, and it's easy to become overwhelmed. Sometimes it comes from the top: more people are working from home and some companies are attempting to increase workloads, justifying it with the now-obsolete commute time and other factors. It's important to avoid letting work seep too heavily into personal time.
Additionally, advances in technology mean that we are never far from the latest news update. However, excessive media consumption has direct links to feelings of dread and issues like depression and anxiety. Take time to block out the constant stream of updates and live in the moment.
When managing mental health, one of the biggest hurdles is knowing where to start. Set aside 10 minutes a day to perform a mind, body, feeling scan. Write down what you need most in each category.
For example, a body that feels fidgety may need fresh air and exercise. A mind that wanders may need a break and time to focus. Rank each problem and prioritize those that will have the largest impact. Often, these issues overlap, and managing a few will benefit them all.
Illness, lockdowns, and changing work environments have increased feelings of isolation and loneliness across the globe. Find time each day to text, call, or video chat with friends or family.
Vaccinated people who practice precautions can safely return to many indoor and outdoor activities that the pandemic previously made impossible. Additionally, in moments of resilience, it can be helpful to act as a pillar of support for someone who needs assistance — so long as you're mindful of not taking on too much responsibility for them.
Sometimes, self-help is not enough and it may be necessary to reach out to another person. While a mental health professional should manage clinical conditions like depression and anxiety, not everyone has access to professional care.
Speaking with close friends and loved ones can help, though some people prefer to seek solace in a spiritual leader or someone within their faith community. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Health or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America have options for outreach and can provide advice, as well.
While the pandemic may seem endless, there have been [many positive developments in the last several months. Preventative measures like the vaccines have proven effective and many treatment options are in production.
Though experts think that COVID is likely here to stay, they also believe it will not be long until we can view it like the flu. At certain points of the year, it may be something to worry about, but getting vaccinated and wearing masks will keep most people perfectly safe.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.