It’s ridiculous to say it again, but we need a starting sentence: 2020 was definitely one of the most-challenging years in many generations.
Between the Covid-19 pandemic, racial reckoning, political division and money troubles, daily life shifted to the left dramatically.
Not only were hospitals impacted by the contagious coronavirus, but these new stresses were also felt by mental health professionals. On top of their concerns prior to 2020, the year brought down additional stresses and concerns that stacked on top of one another and read like a month-by-month timeline of 2020.
Here are the main drivers for new conversations in therapy.
- Covid-19: From the fear of being exposed to the virus, losing (or have lost) employment, paying rent, facemasks being politicized, schools being shut down with no end in sight, the coronavirus pandemic has touched us across nearly every facet of our lives. Due to all the stresses of the pandemic, patients have reported “an increase in depression, anxiety and stress as a result“
- Productivity: One might think that all the additional free time might be freeing, but the pressure to achieve personal goals during this time has risen.
- Black Lives Matter: 2020 saw unprecedented awareness of police brutality, racism and inequity of treatment given to Black people.
- The fear of uncertainty: With no semblance of national plan or strategy from President Trump and no seeming end to the pandemic, Americans were stuck in purgatory; there’s only so much we can see and plan for into the future under the huge shadow of the coronavirus.
- Financial concerns: Money has always been a huge source of stress for many people, that was only made worse by the circumstances of 2020. The pandemic has forced many individuals and families into more difficult financial situations. From cut hours to being unemployed, this has been an unprecedented time. Finances are the last thing anyone wants to think about during these lean times.
- Feelings of disappointment: During the pandemic many big events were cancelled or delayed; large life events such as weddings and graduations were pushed out or held virtually.
- Closed in: The feelings of suffocation and “cabin fever” are real as the country has been forced to shut down, lock down and quarantine. Even if you left your house – there was nowhere to go! Travel has been banned. Schools and restaurants closed.
As you read through the above list, you could see that much of the additional anxieties and mental challenges that have shown up in therapy and virtual therapy sessions have come directly (and indirectly) from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If you had asked me before the pandemic started, ‘If you could impose something on people that would create more depression, more anxiety and more stress, what would you do?’ I’d say, well, make everybody stuck at home ― so that’s what is happening here,” said Michael Stein, a psychologist in Denver and president of Anxiety Solutions.
We’re a couple months into 2021 and millions have been vaccinated over the last several weeks. Most all are hopeful that once we have enough people inoculated, we can move on from the pandemic and back to normal life; adults can go back to work, and children back to school. Grandparents can nuzzle their grandchildren, and you can meet your friends at a restaurant.
With that return to semi-normalcy, both the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on our personal lives will lessen.