In early 2020, the world and everyone in it had their lives changed. When COVID hit our country, we took it one step at a time to work towards the safety, health, and wellbeing of ourselves and our neighbors. The last pandemic of this magnitude was before our time, leaving us to all do our best to anticipate next steps and potential outcomes. While we do not have all the scientific data on how this pandemic has changed our mental health, we are noticing some ways it has impacted us.
This blog post is not speaking towards politics, epidemiology, or policies surrounding the current global pandemic. Please see your doctor for medical concerns, reach out for mental health therapy if you need support, and we recommend following CDC protocol for appropriate precautions in your area.
Grief. When we lose something, or someone, we go through periods of grief that can include anger and depression. COVID has physically taken some of our loved ones, and it has distanced us from many more. We lost our security, our routines, our work-life balance, and our kids lost their peers. We lived in an isolated world full of confusion and loss, with no idea when it would abate. When we experience multiple losses at once, the grief can compound and become too much. We often need external support to acknowledge our feelings and allow ourselves space to go through the grief at our own pace.
Developmental regression. When our kids are not allowed to be in the academic, social, and therapeutic setting that they need, their skills are not able to develop in a normative way. They also feel the fear and loss that COVID caused, and such drastic changes can feel traumatic. When kids face trauma, they often regress in their development and may need parenting that is geared at a child who is chronologically younger. They may need more comfort, play, physical connection, and ways to find control in their uncontrollable world.
Heightened stress responses. When we go through situations where our safety feels threatened, our body releases cortisol which triggers the fight or flight reactions. It primes our body to be able to respond and keep us safe, but too much cortisol can put us in a never-ending loop of feeling on edge and anxious. Our body needs reminders that we are safe, and it needs outlets for relaxation that help it reset to a calmer baseline.
Loss of social skills in youth. Our teens already face such high social pressures and losing years of key developmental periods can make that even more challenging. Some kids left 4th grade one day, and the next time they set foot in a school was starting middle school. The same can be said of middle schoolers suddenly being in high school without feeling adequately prepared. These students may show higher anxiety around school, lack of social skills that appear age appropriate, and they may feel incompetent at things they are expected to know. They need help navigating these new areas and they need safe adults who point out their strengths, skills, and talents so that they feel confident in their new endeavors.