As Australia begins to talk about re-opening state borders, and a return to “normal” is on the horizon, it might be time to take stock and consider the impact of the global pandemic on our psyche. Even if we or our loved ones weren’t directly stricken by the virus, the long-term effects of quarantine and social distancing on our mental health are still unknown. So many people have been feeling loneliness, anger, boredom and depression during these extraordinary times. Add to this the financial stresses experienced by so many business owners, the self-employed and employees, and the threat to mental health is compounded.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the impact of COVID-19 on businesses has been profound:
- 74% of actively trading businesses reported they were operating under modified conditions
- 72% reported that their revenue decreased
- 53% reported that staff hours had been reduced
So many people have had their lives turned upside-down, and mental health professionals are seeing a rise in stress and anxiety in the community. Coping with the uncertainty of the virus spread, and finding so much outside our control are factors that can lead to stress and, if not managed, can ultimately turn into depression. Karestan Koenen is an epidemiologist and professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She studies the effects of trauma and stress.
According to Koenen, “Events that are threatening, are uncontrollable, and have a lot of uncertainty are really toxic to mental health,” she said. “Stress and discouragement can lead to a sense of burnout.”
It’s so important to recognise the symptoms in ourselves and those we care about, and seek support early.
We have outlined some of the emotional symptoms of stress, but what are the physical symptoms we should be looking out for?
Ongoing stress can be stored in the body. Some of the key areas include:
- Lower back pain
- Stomach and digestion
What can we do to address our stress?
In our recent blogs, we have examined some ways we can practice self-care during these stressful times. Routines, mindfulness and relaxation, exercising, sleeping and eating well – these are all great ways to help ourselves.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional health care support to help you get back on track. East Asian medicine – specifically acupuncture, remedial massage, Chinese herbs – all of these may help bring balance back into your life. At Ondol Clinic, we are proud to be supporting many clients who are finding these times challenging.
Finally, although it is sometimes difficult, try to keep perspective – maybe it’s not as bad as we fear. Ask yourself what good might result from this break in what we had come to see as normal? Can we use this time to reassess our needs and priorities? Can we focus on what we have, not what we don’t have? How do we want to “be” in the post pandemic world?
In our interactions with clients and friends, many are feeling more grateful and appreciative of the small things. This is one attitude that can help blow the stress away.