Reflections from a Mental Health Therapist on 2020

Reflections from a Mental Health Therapist on 2020

In Family by debbieconley

Much has been discussed about the toll this year has taken on all of us. The Latin phrase “annus horribilis”, translated “a horrible year” probably best sums it up. When the New Year’s Eve Ball dropped in Time Square on December 31st, ushering in a new decade, few of us envisioned the mess we find ourselves in. A New Year usually means New Year’s Resolutions of weight loss, or exercising more, going back to school and other such life changes. Surely, we did not anticipate “keeping our mask on” or “social distancing” as a New Year’s Resolution; and at that, ones we had to follow through on!

The physical, emotional, spiritual and financial toll this pandemic has had on all of us cannot be underestimated. Certainly, some have suffered more than others. Adding to the chaos, it was an Election Year. Politics and the Medical field merged like we have never seen before. Trust in both took a nosedive.

While much of the focus has been on physical health and the devastation of small businesses, and rightly so, mental health of children and adults alike has been pushed to the brink. We have all heard the sobering statistics about the divorce rate, relationships crumbling, increase in child abuse and domestic violence. Studies reveal an increase in suicide rates across the country. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, alcohol consumption among adults 30- 59 years of age increased by 19%. Forbes Magazine reports that nationally, Tequila sales were up 75 %, wine sales 66 % with beer sales rising at 42%.

Historically, the adverse mental health effects of disasters impact more people and last much longer than the health effects. This according to Joshua C. Morganstein, assistant director at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress in Maryland. If history repeats itself, we will be experiencing mental health fallout long after COVID is under control.

What can we do as we enter another year not knowing exactly what lies ahead? As a therapist who works with children, we as adults need to take care of ourselves first. Borrowing a phrase from the airlines, “put your mask on first before assisting others”. We are no good to our children, elderly parents, co-workers etc…. if our emotional bank balance is zero. Many parents tell me they cannot imagine one more week of online schooling their children much less the rest of the school year.

I have a picture hanging up in my office. The title says: My Circle of Control. I will focus on what I can control. While so much has been out of our control this year, we do have control over our thoughts and actions and how we choose to take care of ourselves. We are heading into a long winter. Here are a few suggestions for taking care of yourself.

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Do not neglect medical care
  • Keep in contact with supportive friends
  • Volunteer – give back
  • Seek out therapy if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed
  • Limit exposure to social media if it makes you anxious
  • Lean on your personal beliefs or faith community

As we welcome the new year 2021, let us do so with anticipation, hope, belief, and a sense of expectation that with us all helping each other, we will not just survive but be stronger as individuals, families and communities.