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Published on May 19, 2021

How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19

How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19

How unpredictable our lives indeed are? In the last year, life, as we know it, has snowballed at a rapid rate into the unexpected, uncertain, and unimaginable chaos it is today. So much has changed for people across all walks of life since March 2020, and with the skyrocketing daily cases reported in India’s second wave and the accompanying rise in deaths, it looks like we have a long battle ahead of us. It’s becoming harder to imagine a life after COVID-19.

The widespread nationwide lockdowns, system-wide complacency, and the lack of healthcare infrastructure have caused irreversible damage and unimaginable horrors. Markets are crashing, and businesses are floundering. Families struggling to find necessary medical intervention or just to keep food on the table are bitter realities we are forced to face today.

But there’s an invisible crisis unfolding that’s hardly spoken about. While everyone is busy dealing with the gross physical consequences of the pandemic, there is a hidden impact that could cause a heavier toll over time. That is the crisis of deteriorating mental health during the pandemic—a concern that’s only worsening with negligence as the battle against COVID-19 prolongs.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Everyone

The current pandemic could leave generations mentally scarred for the rest of our lives. Frontline workers who took the oath to treat the ill to the best of their abilities face trauma like no other. From dreaming of saving lives to triaging and deciding who gets to live, these COVID warriors will carry a heavy emotional burden even after the pandemic.

For our parents, this is a fearful time. COVID-19 and the news of death all around them act as a constant reminder of their own mortality. The world they knew and the people who gave them familiarity is shrinking.

On the other side, it is a lethal cocktail of overwhelm, anxiety, fear, and insecurity for the younger working-class professionals. Most professionals are at the edge of their sanity with endless paranoia about job loss and its consequences. The fear of what tomorrow will bring and the uncertainty make them lose their sleep today.

And for those reasonably secure about their jobs, there’s a constant sense of overwhelm, dread, lack of inclination, focus, and concentration to deliver on their responsibilities. How much does what most of us do as work really matter when there are more pressing life-threatening issues to worry about?

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For entrepreneurs and risk-takers, the pandemic is a grim reminder of the fragility of their enterprise. The levels of uncertainty, the mounting pressure to support their employees and suppliers, continuously changing statutory rules and regulations—all leave a business owner gasping for air as they run around and manage multiple responsibilities with little or no support.

For children growing up in this climate, their innocence is lost much earlier than it should have. Children mature faster in these times. Moreover, children today are growing up wholly cut off from peers and could grow up to be even lonelier a generation than today’s Gen Z.

Young adults with a memory of a pre-covid world are in no better position as they struggle with the uncertainty of their future life after COVID-19. With universities shut, job market opportunities slim, and continuous peer pressure thanks to social media, the last 12 months have been taxing for these youngsters.

We Are in It for the Long Haul

While no one can say how many more waves COVID-19 has in store for us, the emotional toll of this pandemic is becoming costlier with every passing day. Vaccines might buy us some time in the interim. However, it looks like COVID-19 is here to stay for a few years until scientists find a foolproof cure for all possible virus mutations.

In the meantime, emotional resilience is the need of the hour. Adults need to be continuously mindful of their mental health and take action or preventive steps to damage control and provide necessary love, attention, and emotional support to near and dear ones to limit the consequences.

How to Mentally Prepare for a Life After COVID-19

Here are a few ways we could build emotional resilience and better prepare ourselves mentally for life after COVID-19.

1. Acceptance of the New Reality

To begin with, all of us need to grieve the loss of life as we knew it and bury the dreams of what we had planned for the next few years. We need to confront the new reality and accept it totally. Complete acceptance requires letting go of thoughts like “what if,” “I wish,” “if only,” “it should be,” or “must have been.”

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We need to accept our new reality as is—a reality filled with uncertainty, fear of infection, and a sketchy future. A lot of us believe acceptance as meek, passive, and an act of the weak, but it’s quite the contrary. Acceptance requires tremendous courage to face the harsh realities of the current circumstances.

2. Process It, Don’t Numb It

We all love running away from our emotions. We’d rather overlook, neglect, ignore, or numb the feelings because, let’s be honest, we don’t know how to deal with them.

Today, we are dealing with a tsunami of emotions, and we have no idea where to begin. How does one work through the pile without crumbling under the weight of all these emotions?

And so we look the other way. We pretend that these feelings do not exist. We binge-watch Netflix, or worse, turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. But that doesn’t resolve it. It’s only temporarily forgotten like the waves crashing and receding back to the ocean. But the waves return, and so will these emotions—they will come back and come back with more force than ever.

So, don’t neglect it, process it. Share what you’re feeling with friends and family who can provide a non-judgmental ear. If not, reach out to mental health helplines, counselors, and therapists to process the emotions and ease the pain.

3. Seek and Provide Emotional Support

Make sure to check in with how your loved ones are doing. Go a few steps beyond “How are you doing?” to really know if they are doing okay. Ask them how their mental health is in these times. Are they sleeping okay? How are they coping with the uncertainty and fear?

If they open up to you, hold space and lend a listening ear without judgment. Don’t rush to share your stories or offer unsolicited advice. Let them know you’re there for them and that it’s okay to seek professional help if they cannot cope.

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However, remember that this is not a one-way street. While you make yourself available for your loved ones, make sure you seek help and support when you need it. Don’t try to be a super savior neglecting your needs.

Like Bill Wither’s song goes:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong,
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long, Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride, If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill, Those of your needs that you won’t let show.”

4. Stay Connected With Your Tribe

I firmly believe in the power of the collective. Whatever your tribe is—whether it’s a subgroup of work colleagues, an art class gang, workout buddies, fellow entrepreneurs in a networking group, or the extended family of friends and cousins—support and seek support from the collective and find some solace during these times.

There’s a great relief in knowing you’re not alone, particularly when we are distanced from the people we love and restricted from doing things we love.

Leverage technology to at least keep the conversations going. Zoom sessions to the rescue! Be it creating art together or coming online to break a sweat and burn those calories, make sure to stay connected with your tribe, especially as you envision life after COVID-19.

5. Make Time to Create Moments of Joy

While the battle against the virus might feel disheartening, it is essential to cultivate practices that give us joy—whether it is that meditation in the darkness and quiet before the sunrise, that cup of coffee on the balcony, journaling thoughts and emotions, completing a crossword puzzle, a Schitt’s Creek or Office watch party, Facetime video calls with the family, or the weekend zoom game nights with friends.

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Engage in activities beyond the constant COVID talk that give you moments of joy even in these times of crisis. It might be the little things, but they can help preserve your sanity and restore mental balance.

Is It All a Loss?

We all stand to lose something as we defend humanity against this deadly virus. Many of us will grieve the loss of loved ones and seek to fill a void that can never be filled, and almost all of us will leave a part of ourselves behind because life will never be the same again.

As the saying goes, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

But it’s not all bad.

Final Thoughts

I firmly believe that the pandemic will also be a time of awakening, where we finally open our eyes to what truly matters as we long for life after COVID-19.

Maybe, once the pandemic is behind us, we will find more joy in the everyday things we took for granted. The morning rush to get kids ready for school, the commutes to work, boring office parties, conversations by the water cooler, and weekends.

We will probably be more grateful for the freedom to hang out with friends, visit our parents, or take a vacation. We will be more present and create lasting memories from simple birthday celebrations with friends to our big fat Indian weddings. We will love more, laugh more, and cherish more.

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Featured photo credit: Kate Trifo via unsplash.com

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Shwetha Sivaraman

Entrepreneur, Self-Awareness Coach, and a Podcaster at Being Meraklis

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Published on June 22, 2021

Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression?

Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression?

Waking up groggy, eyes adjusting to the light, everything is a little blurry, you stumble into the kitchen and get your first cup of joe brewin’. The smell hits you first—a nice dark roast perhaps, and then finally, your first sip, ahhhhh . . . You begin the rest of your morning routine and that beautiful, aroma-filled beverage in your cup kick-starts your day.

But have you ever wondered if your morning coffee ritual is actually contributing to anxiety or depression? If so, I got some answers for you in this article

We’ve become a coffee-crazed culture—drinking it for pleasure, to relax, as a treat, drinking it to socialize, and not least of all, for energy. Suffice to say, all that coffee craze can lead to an unhealthy dependency. How else can we keep our energy up, treating ourselves along the way, to accomplish all the things we need and want to get done in life?

So, here’s the lowdown on coffee, anxiety, and depression.

Coffee and Depression

There’s some very interesting research out there about coffee and depression. It turns out that coffee might actually be a protective factor against depression and is even correlated with a reduction in suicide.[1] That’s a pretty amazing finding for coffee lovers and those who deal with depression or suicidality!

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In fact, studies have talked about this very interesting outcome. However, before we get too excited, let’s hit the pause button and clarify a few things. I do say “might” because research is research, and although this gives us some evidence, it’s always important to remember that each of our bodies reacts differently to different environments, circumstances, or substances, and there are a lot of variables at play, so nothing is 100%—but it is a good indicator for sure!

Some of the variables to consider in these studies include the overall lifestyle of subjects and control groups as well as a super important one—whether the coffee they were drinking is caffeinated or decaffeinated as much of the research isn’t clear. So, there’s some more work to be done there, but that’s encouraging!

And that’s not all. Coffee, which is most often connected to unhealthy habits, was taken off the WHO’s list of carcinogenic foods in 2016, a somewhat rare move. The WHO even reports that coffee may protect against cancer of the uterus and liver. And they are not alone, several other, well-known and esteemed organizations, such as The World Cancer Research Fund and the US Department of Health and Human Services, have also declared that coffee consumption in moderation (three to five cups per day) can have positive effects on your health and protect you from various forms of cancer.[2][3]

When it comes to depression, it was found that it may not be only the caffeine at play, as there are other impactful components in coffee. The more notable are chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and caffeic acid, all of which have been found to reduce inflammation of nerves which is found to be a factor in the brains of people suffering from depression. More good stuff!

Coffee and Anxiety

The research on coffee and anxiety, however, is not quite as positive for those who suffer from anxiety as it is for those who suffer from depression. And it’s not all that surprising either, but there was something that I did find interesting in all of the reading I did on this subject.

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By and large, it was found that if you don’t suffer from anxiety, coffee will likely not have too much of a negative impact on you when consumed in moderation. However, when caffeine doses increase to more than 400mg per day, symptoms associated with anxiety may appear, such as restlessness, jitteriness, and trouble sleeping. In those who suffer from anxiety, it will take far less to exacerbate their already present symptoms of anxiety—not too surprising.[4]

But anecdotally, there is a lot of documentation about people quitting coffee for a period of time and writing about the impact on their anxiety, which was found to be fairly negligent. So, overall, if you suffer from anxiety, there is a good chance that moderate coffee consumption will not have too much of an impact on your anxiety, though it certainly won’t help it.

How Does Coffee Affect Your Mood?

When it comes to your overall mood, the thing you should think about is how your body responds to caffeine as this is the primary issue for most people—depression or anxiety aside—and our bodies have different sensitivities to caffeine.

Some people can drink espresso right before bed and have no trouble sleeping but for others, it could guarantee a night of restlessness with lots of tossing and turning! And poor sleep contributes to irritability, less resistance to dealing with life stressors as well as other poor health indicators, and hence, lowered mood.

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential especially when dealing with chronic anxiety. So, if you fall into this camp, then it might be good for you to moderate your coffee consumption or even just evaluate and assess for yourself to see what the impact might be on a period of time with no caffeine.

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It’s important that you get to know your body and how it reacts to different substances and environments. Running a little experiment on yourself can be a fun way to get to know and understand your body and how you metabolize caffeine.

The Bottom Line on Coffee, Anxiety, and Depression

Overall, the research says that there are potentially a few health benefits when it comes to depression and coffee drinking than on coffee and anxiety—where it is found to have a negative or neutral impact. Furthermore, there is an array of other potentially beneficial health impacts from drinking coffee.[5]

Given all of this various research—some of it very promising (around depression) and some of it not surprising (anxiety)—coffee is not going to eradicate any mental health concerns, though it does not necessarily seem to cause them. The most important thing to consider when thinking about the impact of coffee drinking on your anxiety or depression is that it can aggravate sleep issues, which is a really important piece of your self-care when dealing with depression, anxiety, or any mental health issue for that matter.[6]

Wanna Cut Back on Your Coffee Drinking?

If you are looking to cut back a little on how much coffee you drink or even just run that little experiment on yourself that I was referring to, then you can start with a few simple tips.

1. Cut Back Gradually

Caffeine is a stimulant, and you will likely feel some physiological symptoms, such as a headache, brain fog, and general fatigue. This will last for a day or two, possibly more depending on how much caffeine you have been consuming. Before you start cutting back, it is good to know about how much caffeine you are drinking in a day. That way you can gradually cut back by a beverage each day or so.

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2. Make Sure You Stay Hydrated

Coffee—or caffeine for that matter—is a diuretic, which means that it will naturally dehydrate you, so cutting down will most likely help with dehydration. However, with that said, it is still important to make sure you are drinking enough fluids as that will help minimize the effects of the withdrawal.

3. Get Plenty of Rest

You will naturally feel a little tired when cutting back on caffeine/coffee, make sure you get enough rest, giving your body a chance to adjust and recuperate from the withdrawal.

4. Increase Your Physical Activity

Try to increase your physical activity a little. Physical activity is known to increase mood, which will counter the irritability you may feel when cutting back on your coffee intake.

5. Take Notes

Keep a little log or journal to write down how you are feeling on different days and how much, if any, caffeine you are drinking at various points in your “trial.” Think about your mood, how you feel, how you are sleeping, and possibly how you feel it is impacting your relationships and your daily activities. When you go back to look at your data, you will be able to assess the impact of caffeine and coffee intake more accurately.

Keep in Mind

How much coffee we drink and its impacts vary widely depending on many, many factors. The best bet for you is to know yourself, pay attention to how coffee impacts you, talk to your doctors, and consider your personal life circumstances. Taking all of these steps will help you to make an informed decision for yourself, which will likely change over time.

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Featured photo credit: Drew Coffman via unsplash.com

Reference

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