Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
One side effect of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions isn’t physical or financial – it’s mental.
Last month, The Psychiatric Times published an article about the “mental health pandemic” that came along with COVID-19.
The health and financial costs of COVID-19 have resulted in widespread feelings of helplessness and overwhelming anxiety and despair in response to circumstances over which we have little or no control. Chronic exposure to severe stress in the absence of control among countless millions constitutes a perfect storm, with severe mental health consequences on a global scale, including increased rates of depressed mood, suicide, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Individuals who were already struggling with mental illness before COVID-19 are now facing even greater challenges… Historically, increases in rates of severe mental illnesses have often followed in the aftermath of national crises. For example, during the decade of the Great Depression from 1929 to 1939, the suicide rate rose from 13.9 to 17.4 per 100,000. Traumatic memories of surviving years of hardship during the Great Depression resulted in high rates of anxiety and depressed mood for generations. Although economic downturns disproportionately affected the health and well-being of the lower income segment of the population, all socioeconomic groups are negatively impacted.
A second wave of the pandemic will be driven by intense feelings of anxiety and despair in a world that is no longer predictable and safe due to high rates of unemployment and homelessness coupled with traumatic memories of surviving one’s own brush with COVID-19 or the death of a partner, parent, or loved one. (source)
Mental health issues have not be handled well in the best of times in the United States (here’s a pill for that), and this certainly isn’t the best of times. People have self-reported significant increases in feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Certain groups are having a more difficult time than others: healthcare workers, mothers, college students, and pregnant women are struggling to deal with uncertainty, fear, and loss. Alcohol sales have skyrocketed and social isolation has been linked to an increase in suicidal behaviors.
Others who are suffering are people who are at higher risk of a bad outcome if they get COVID. The elderly and those who have chronic health conditions, in particular, are dealing with stress and isolation. Their loved ones are staying away to keep them safe, but perhaps the loneliness is just as dangerous in another way. I’ve got friends who have relatives in nursing homes who haven’t been able to see family members for six months, and those patients are declining fast without the love and presence of their family members.
Were preppers ready for this?
Even among those of us who are prepared for interruptions in our day-to-day lives, the effect on mental health has been something many didn’t expect.
I’ve written a bit about the emotional aspects of the pandemic. I wrote an article about how, even though I’d planned for this and prepared for it, it still felt somewhat unreal to me. I also wrote about how the uncertainty of the situation was taking a toll on members of my family and my friends. The comments on both of these articles told me I was not alone in the way I felt.
Mental health, however, was the one aspect many preppers weren’t quite ready for: how do you help someone accept that the life they had planned is no longer an option, at least not now? How do you help someone accept the fact that the world will never go “back to normal?”
At the same time, there are many people in the preparedness and survival world who are dealing with the pandemic by denouncing it as a fraud or a hoax.
It could be that the government response was inappropriate, but being angry about it doesn’t change it. Just because preppers didn’t get the apocalypse they’d planned for doesn’t mean that this situation is not life-altering. We still have to cope with a whole new set of rules and norms or risk financial – or even criminal – repercussions. You can rage on the internet all you want, but it doesn’t change these facts:
- Masks, and whether or not you agree to wear them have become a symbol that is almost tribal in nature.
- There are many businesses and public buildings you cannot enter without a mask. (Walmart and McDonalds have recently announced this requirement)
- Workplaces may require masks, gloves, temperature checks, and other measures for employees.
- Travel outside the United States is greatly restricted.
- Air travel has changed dramatically.
- Millions of jobs have been lost and are never coming back.
- The supply chain is devastated.
- Schools are reopening in ways that are unrecognizable.
- Nursing homes and hospitals are not allowing visitors and loved ones are dying alone.
All of these changes are difficult for just about anyone, and particularly so for those who disbelieve the seriousness of the virus. I recently spoke to a person in her 80s who said, “It feels like they’re taking away my whole life.”
How can you help those who are struggling with mental health issues?
Whether it’s you or someone you love, there are some things you can do to help those who are currently feeling the effects of fear, depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and isolation. Some of these things I’ve mentioned in previous articles but they bear repeating.
Make sure the person knows they are not alone. It can help to know that others are feeling the same emotions and stresses. As well, regular phone calls, chats on VOIP platforms like Skype, and socially distanced visits that take place outdoors can be a bright spot for someone who is feeling isolated.
Stop focusing on things “going back to normal.” If you keep wishing for things to go back to how they were before, I’m afraid you’re going to be in for a constant disappointment. Many aspects of our lives have changed irrevocably. One of the things that Selco talks about over and over is the importance of adapting to the new rules when your situation changes, and this one is no different.
Make plans every day. If you aren’t working, or if you’re working from home, you still need to make plans. Create a schedule for yourself. Don’t just lay there on the sofa watching Netflix and Amazon Prime all day long. It’s not good for you. Get up and get dressed (not necessarily office-dressed but don’t wear the same thing to live in and sleep in for three days in a row.) Figure out what nutrient-rich meals you’re going to make that day. Think about how you’ll exercise – will it be a walk with the dogs around the neighborhood or will you go to a nearby hiking trail? What work do you need to get accomplished? What room are you going to deep clean? Write it all down on a whiteboard or a piece of paper on the fridge so everybody knows what’s on the day’s agenda.
Don’t lay around watching television all day. Set yourself a time at which you’ll watch a movie or show online. I’ve worked from home for years, and one rule I’ve held for myself throughout it is that we don’t turn on Netflix until it’s getting dark. That means in the summer, it’s later because we can spend time doing things outdoors during the nice weather. If you start watching while you have lunch it’s way to easy to get sucked into a series and the next thing you know, it’s bedtime and you never accomplished anything. This isn’t healthy mentally or physically so I strongly advise that if you are a television viewer or a person who likes to stream shows you limit this to evenings.
Prepare for what you can. We all know that we need to prep with the basics of food, water, seeds, tools, and the like. This doesn’t really change, regardless of what the future holds. So keep doing what you can to build up supplies and skills. A lot of things are out of our hands but you can control what is within your power. We know that things will most likely continue to deteriorate and that we could be in for a second wave. So continuing to stock up as you can (even a little bit at a time) is just as important as ever.
Don’t consume a constant diet of bad news. I spend a lot of time researching this virus, the effects on our economy, how it has decimated other parts of the world, reading the heartbreaking stories of loss. I’ve been doing this since January 20th, when it first really appeared on my radar. I do not advise it to anyone. It can be hard to see the light when you spend your time delving into the darkness. I’ve been doing this for years and can compartmentalize to some degree, but this has been a long haul. Limit the amount of time you spend reading about this outbreak and the difficulties surrounding it. Unless your job depends on you knowing every detail about COVID-19 and its effect on the world, you can stay informed reading about it for 30 minutes a day instead of 6 hours a day. Trust me when I say this: your outlook will become much brighter when your day is not filled by press conferences, the follies of incompetent government officials, and stories of suffering. Here are some tips on handling a barrage of terrible events.
Enjoy making healthful, home-cooked meals. Remember all those times you said you didn’t have time to cook? Now, if you’re currently out of work, you finally have time to cook. Don’t just heat up frozen pizza after frozen pizza! Get in that kitchen and whip up all those tasty delights you’ve wanted to make for years. Learn to bake bread if you don’t know how to do so. Cook things that take half a day to prepare. Make every tiny detail from scratch. Set the table with the nice china and give your food the showcase it deserves.
Work on some projects you never had time to do before. What projects have you always put off because you didn’t have the time? We’re currently converting a storage room in my daughter’s small apartment into a second bedroom since it looks like I’m going to be here for a while. We’ve been going through the boxes of our past and enjoying the walk down memory lane. I’m finally getting all this stuff into scrapbooks. We’re devising clever storage methods and purging things we don’t need. Soon we’ll have an adorable tiny room off the laundry room for some much needed extra space. After that, we’re building some shelves with curtains in front of them for the kitchen to put away our canned and boxed goods, hidden from prying eyes. We also each have some craft projects on the go for entertainment because productive hobbies are always a great idea.
Spend time outdoors. If your municipality allows it, spend some time outdoors. You can still be socially distant while getting fresh air. Avoid the clusters of humans and walk the challenging trails at your local hiking place. Or go early in the day while everybody else is still sleeping in. Getting some fresh air, exercise, and sunshine is healthy for both your body and your mind. If you can’t go out for a walk, at the very least, sit on your balcony or patio and read for a while.
Find something to be thankful for as often as possible. An attitude of gratitude makes tough times easier to stomach. Even now, there are things for which we can be grateful. I am spending time with my daughter and talking regularly on the phone to my other daughter. I am enjoying the blossoming of the spring flowers – always a favorite time of year for me. I am grateful that for now, I still have work online. I’m grateful my daughter is no longer working in retail during this outbreak and that she’s safely home. I’m grateful I have the time to cook delicious meals, experience my daughter’s cooking (she’s really good at it), and spend some bonus time with her. We have two dogs to walk and two cats to cuddle. Life could be much, much worse so take a moment to appreciate what you have right now.
Focus on the things you can do something about. We can’t change the government’s response to the virus. We can’t change the supply chain or the shortages or the increasing cost of just about everything. But we can control what we plant in our garden, what books we read, and the skills we learn. Here are some more thoughts about what you can change and what you can’t.
Make sure your loved ones know that they are loved. Check up on them, even if you’re feeling blue yourself. Don’t let too much time go past without a phone call or an email. Reaching out is just as good for you as it is for them.
Get professional help. If you or someone you know is truly struggling and it is beyond the help of these small steps, don’t be afraid to get professional help. Interestingly, mental health care is actually a bit easier to access now with the advent of telehealth and online counseling. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are not things of which you should be ashamed and you don’t have to handle it alone.
Below, find some numbers and websites where you may be able to access assistance for yourself or a loved one.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357) – they can help you find resources for mental health crises or addiction either nearby or online
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454
The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects callers to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.
- Crisis Text Line
Text “HELLO” to 741741
The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.
- Veterans Crisis Line
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that connects veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a trained responder. The service is available to all veterans, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA healthcare. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss can call 1-800-799-4889.
- Disaster Distress Helpline
Call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
The disaster distress helpline provides immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. The helpline is free, multilingual, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
View the NIMH 5 action steps for helping someone in emotional pain infographic to see how you can help those in distress. (source)
The takeaway from all of this
Please know that there is absolutely no shame in struggling with your mental health. Sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance – and that is completely outside of your control. Other times it’s situational – and in our current scenario, this is also outside your control. Reach out to your doctor or to one of the resources above if it is too much to handle on your own.
As well, we need to understand that this event has been SHTF-lite. While many of our lives will never be the same, due to the loss of a loved one, the loss of financial security, or the loss of a business, we aren’t dealing with an apocalyptic scenario in which resources are so limited that people are willing to kill to get the food you were planning to give your family for dinner.
We still have access to an abundance of resources where we can get help or help the people we love. It’s better to understand now how we deal with crisis scenarios and learn to prepare for it. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need and don’t hesitate to encourage the ones you love to reach out for help either. This can help us better predict how we and the ones we love will react during a more extreme scenario and we can use this time to become better prepared for the possibility of mental health effects during a future crisis.
Have you struggled with your mental health during the pandemic, or has someone you love had difficulty? Do you have any suggestions that can help others? If you feel comfortable with it, please share your thoughts on this.
I’m sure we’ve all struggled but for the most part it. Obviously if you’ve lost loved ones, jobs and homes it’s worse. To be expected and yes we have obligations as a society to help them if no more than a kind word or overlooking a trespass against us.
The biggest mental health issues have come afterwards. Assaulting and/or killing someone for wearing or not wearing a mask shows the depth of mental health worldwide. I actually told my group that we would see a lot of issues of rights vs health but the amount of mental issues kinda caught me off guard because folks are still getting their meds and living decently for the most part. OC spraying someone for pulling down their mask to eat, at an outdoor restaurant, isn’t acceptable and yet here we are.
Now looking at it thinking what a true SHTF event might look like raises serious concerns. The scale is much larger than I’d hoped for.
Conflicting information and the inability to make grownup decisions without government control has thrown a monkey wrench into it all too.
That coupled with entitlement, laziness and “gimmie free stuff” has made things challenging.
Matt, please explain your assertion that ‘”we” have obligations as a society’ to do anything. On what authority have you determined that I consented to such a far-flung proposition, whereas I am not a party to “we” nor “society”, as both are fictions?
Simmer down Sovereign Arrow.
I shouldn’t have to explain general decency but I’ll try in the most simplistic terms possible.
Are you the kind of neighbor that would openly scoff at someone who lost their spouse of 40 years to the virus rather than pull in their trash cans the day of the funeral so the wind didn’t blow them over into the street so you have to drive around them?
Without such things one is not a part of this society or one that will last. History can/will show this.
Now one might not choose to be a part of that society which is fine as there is no loss on either side but what usually happens is that party doesn’t leave society but instead chooses to stay and create issues, chaos and tear it down because of it’s inability to create another society. The person is full of rage and hate but isn’t intelligent enough to actually control and direct it to productivity of creation. So rather than join in decency they challenge everything and attempt to use articulation above others so as to appear intelligent hoping to gain followers but still can not have their own society.
That is where we are today in many places.
You can certainly choose not to consent to be decent. That is your choice.
The phenomenon of ‘Learned Helplessness’ is well-documented.
Good it be that we are seeing ‘Induced Helplessness … a deliberate strategy, the aim of which is to render a populace malleable?
You are 1000% right.
Whether the “plandemic” is real or not, the actions by TPTB are definitely intentional.
They can’t have free-thinking people running around. It messes with their plans.
Check out Dr. Vernon Coleman’s youtube channel. He nails it.
I just discovered his videos 2 days ago. They are excellent.
Great article, Daisy, on a topic not often addressed. My workplace has about 2/3 of employees working from home. Most introverts are doing ok. An introvert regains his/her energy from getting away from people, while an extrovert gets their energy from people. Working from home is driving the extroverts to distraction. Even the introverts who live alone in a condo or don’t have pets or a garden to keep, or something outside their home are distracted, weary, and unhappy.
There’s just so much you can do within the confines of 4 walls for 8 or more hours a day while you’re on your laptop trying to have meetings and get work done. One thing I’m finding is that I crave more variety in my day and I’m looking for ways to get that– learn something new, keep a visual journal, sprout avocado seeds, learn a new way to prepare an old dish, try new exercises, etc… Even going for a drive in the evening, through a new neighborhood is refreshing.
It’s important to get help when you feel like you’re spiraling down. Research shows that if you are depressed 2 or more weeks, it is difficult to get out of the mindset with chemical intervention or a drastic change in exercise and sleep. Call for that telephone doc appointment. Talk to someone. It’s important. You are important.
Correction:…it is difficult to get out of the mindset withOUT chemical intervention…
there’s this guy in the uk who blogs at “garden like grandpa”. he’s using this time to further develop his gardening spaces and skills. recently he wrote an article about the guilt of lockdown happiness. he’s an introvert, uncomfortable in large social gatherings. he’s happy now and feels a bit guilty that he’s not stressed like others he knows. something like survivor’s guilt? of course it is a bit tongue in cheek, but maybe it is also just a tiny silver lining. introverts may flower just now.
we have been prepping for many years. we didn’t get the apocalypse we were planning for but we got a big ongoing something that is still not fully clear. we pretend we are on a space station. we have electronic contact with friends, we have work to do, and depend for all we cannot provide for ourselves on occasional deliveries. we have been in lockdown since late feb because i am very high risk, leaving only for trips to our community garden, and the dentist for an unplanned abscessed tooth. the fresh goods we have run low on have occasionally been resupplied by a local farmer, a friend, or amazon. (all those goods went thru quarantine timeout). in other words due to a combination of prepping and friends and good luck, we remain well. my house is the cleanest it has been in years. the yard is weeded, the pantry organized, the quilt is finished, and my gin rummy game is improved. 🙂
Turn to Jesus Christ and read the BIble. Start with the New Testament. These events are written. We need help and it doesn’t come from a social worker or psychologist – they are self serving. What we need is Divine intervention. This would change over night if we repented and asked for God’s help through Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Amen and Amen again. To paraphrase Proverb 22:4 , ” The prudent sees danger and avoids it, but the fool goes on and pays the price”.
Yes prepare, knowing that God loves His children more than any earthly Mother or Father ever will.
One concern I’ve had recently about this pandemic and the continual lockdown’s impact on mental health: red flag laws. Since many people, especially those who would usually be rational and unassuming, are now becoming unhinged or teetering on the very edge of being able to keep it together (or perceived as such). Mask vs. none, 6 more weeks, social distance, isolation…what will trigger someone to cry red flag allegations against another and have them stripped of 2A rights? Encouraging everyone to take a deep breath and stay free.
Honestly I’ve been using this time to really study God’s Word. His Son , Jesus is my hope. ( 1Peter 3:15)
Me too. Casting all my cares on Him and being thankful. The Word means even more now. Meaning is everything.
I am a veteran and a mental health professional. I have observed some elderly friends really getting cabin fever and being on the verge of loosing it as they are dealing with their own natural slowing down with age and now the isolation of shut downs. Most don’t mind me visiting them so I sometimes take them for a ride into our small town. I also (the researcher in me) have talked with my medical professionals about what impact this is having on them and how they feel. They have been very honest and told me the impact it is having on them psychologically when they see especially their elderly patients and listen to what they are going through with the isolation. They talk about the impact this is having on their own families as well.
For myself, I am somewhat of a maverick and from an analytical perspective see much of the company line we are told about COVID as nothing more than the company line. I am not denying that this virus does not exist but I do think we the people are being manipulated as well.
Sometimes when I get really frustrated I go down a COSTCO aisle the wrong way just to regain a sense of normality and say “I am not a car”. One way designations are for vehicles, not people. The other day I went into the Credit Union with a chuck pad folded and wrapped around my face as my mask because the last time I was there their required hand sanitizer ended up bleaching my pants, so this was my way of being a rebel, and got the idea from the link below. By the way humor helps me out a lot and this link made me laugh my butt off.
One final thing I do is I am boycotting church services. Some of our local churches are open but you have to sit X number of pews apart and can only sit with your own family. Those of us who have no family have to sit alone on an individual church pew by ourselves like a leper. I refuse to participate in this madness. It’s bad enough that you live alone, have limited socialization, and in church cannot be a part of the “family of God”. Anyway, I now do conference call service on Sundays with the church I grew up in in another state.
These are some ways I cope to maintain my mental health.
Ours has been meeting in an cement and grass amphitheater in a nice park. We bring lawn chairs and hug the shady areas. Covid protocols are observed. Except we are allowed to take off our masks once we are with our family group. And because we are outside, we don’t need to wear a mask to sing! Guitars are portable! Just singing my heart out with my friends really lifts me up to a better place. We are surrounded by beautiful nature and people just casually stroll by along the park’s trails. Some even stop to listen. It’s been great sending air hugs and kisses and laughing heartily because it feels silly. But we are still able to communicate our care for each other. That’s a big boost to my mental health!
Away with Zoom meetings!
Excellent article, Daisy, and interesting reader comments.
There’s no question that a major component of what’s happening is a psychological operation. We are being deliberately broken down as a society as part of a major reset that includes dependency on the powers that be.
I appreciate your list of resources for counselling, etc., but I’m wary of the so-called professionals. Most are at least as screwed up as I am (smiling here), and who’s to say they’re faring well through all of this themselves?
I’m heartened to see comments by believers in Christ. Allow a word of testimony.
Many years ago when I was 17 my parents took me to a psychologist. (It wasn’t the first time for that during my teenage years.) I was a fairly new Christian, but I got fed up with what I saw as the counselor’s nonsense. I told my parents I wouldn’t go any more, and that was that.
I was headed for Bible college in a few months, but I knew little about the Bible, in spite of having gone to a Presbyterian church for several years, including confirmation class.
As it happened, I was given an unusual part time job that summer. For three weeks I sat in an office during business hours and answered the phone, which didn’t ring very often. All I had to do was schedule appointments.
I decided that was a good time to read the Bible. I made it through enough of the Old Testament to help me pass the entrance exams at Bible college.
Reading the Scriptures did more for me than any psychologist could have. It still does wonders for me today. I highly encourage anyone to cultivate a relationship with the Lord in these weird times. He is truly our only hope.
If you’re part of a church, keep in touch with fellow members, regardless of whether your church is able to meet. That fellowship is necessary for all involved.
To any skeptics who doubt the value of reading the Bible, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it–really tried it.
Yep. Psyops is a big component is The Plan.
Thanks for another great post, Daisy. I always learn something from your writings. I especially appreciate your thoughts on the importance of gratitude. For me that is perhaps the most essential factor in keeping my sanity through hard times. I figure, we all begin each day facing two large piles: a pile of excrement, and a pile of blessings. How well or how badly our day starts out depends mostly on which pile we focus on. I’ve found if I begin the day looking at the first pile it will probably hold my attention all day, and I won’t even consider all those blessings, even though the blessings pile is far larger than the poop pile.
Thank you so very much Daisy.This mental health issue is a powder keg….We can all reach out to our friend and coworkers to see how they are doing.Even seeing a therapist in the short term is helpful,playing cards,doing crossword puzzles,reading,working out,studying the bible old and new testament is positive and very healthy. We have to rely on ourselves and not the Govt. Guess that is the whole idea of prepping!
Where I live it’s now against the law not to wear a mask and $200 fine will be issued and all stores can refuse entry . My elderly parents have struggled so we try support them best we can. My kiddos with autism have loved it, they struggle with everyday life and have done far better with life and homeschooling which is something that to consider. For myself I’ve tried to use this time to get alot of my projects done. Increased the size of my garden. Negotiated with my landlord to have chickens, built garden beds , water barrels to catch rain water, new skills, fermenting, new bread making with sour dough, studying a couple of courses at night forest school teaching & permaculture. And new harder for me fitness schedule. I have a long list to try and get through before we have to get back out there. (My wood working skills are laughable but still giving it a crack). Just doing what I can .Please stay safe everyone
I agree about diet Daisy. Lots of peeps have been stress eating. I decided to get more disciplined and have dropped 15 pounds by eating less, intermittent fasting and adding more vegies. The garden helps with the last one. I feel a lot better and hope the rest will come off once I get off this plateau. My body is real good at finding homeostasis. So I have to play tricks on it with change ups. I decided to get rid of my cravings by deprivation and it’s worked. I’ve only been a little hungry now and then. It’s been a part of my prepping strategy to lose the extra. This present slo-mo demolition was just the thing to make me finally get after it.
Seriously, too many carbs can add to mental distress and not really deliver to soothing we’d hoped for. Well, dark chocolate may be the exception. 😉
Great article. I must congratulate you Again on your ability to bring forth REAL nuggets of Wisdom in All of your articles & it’s obvious you have taken Selco & the Dr. from Venezuela very seriously. You are a without a doubt giving people Help, Hope, Info & Tools to Survive & Thrive. I am Thanking You & Praying for You & others. God Bless! Keep up the Fantastic work you do!