As I have discussed in prior blogs this has been a long yea for everyone, myself included coping with the pandemic and its impact on society’s mental health. Hopefully this is the last blog within the pandemic context as the world appears to be improving. Given that I wanted to take some time reflecting on lessons learned and my own observations of the challenges and growth of my clients whether they were my general ones, students, or athletes. All of them shared any of the same experiences. I may even add a few of my own. In no particular order the following are my Pandemic Reflections.
1. Telehealth works for clients and providers and is here to stay. Many of my clients have adapted well, and being able to see them in their own environments has helped provide me with even more insight into the challenges they face. It does not get in the way of the therapy process. As a provider telehealth has helped me expand my base and reach a new set of clients that I may never have been able to reach in the past. I can’t wait to see the new applications of it in the future.
2. While telehealth works for therapy the opposite is true for school. Yes there are students I have worked with who have adapted well and adjusted to teleschool, but those have the motivation and existing skills to do so. Many of my clients struggles with learning challenges and executive functioning difficulties, and teleschool did not work for them. Communication with schools was not as easy as advertised, it decreased motivation, and in turn reduced engagement with school. While I have doubt teleschool is here to stay on some level, we need to continue to accept it limitations and try to improve it.
3. For everyone, myself included, we have realized the importance of real social connection. Yes zoom was fun and can work on some level, t is not a substitute for real in person contact. I have been with my friends in person in several months but plan to so and I am looking forward to it. I consider myself pretty mentally strong and have managed, but all recent research, studies, and observations have shown a significant increase in depression and anxiety in society, and there is no doubt that decreased social contact played a role. While we will not know the long term effects, especially as children and teenagers for years, there is no doubt there will be an impact on many.
4. Despite challenges, there are others who have done well. Many of those reached deep to adapt and find a sense of resiliency. They didn’t make excuses, and pushed forward. These are skills that can be learned, and as a society we need to put more emphasis on them to improve as a society in general.
5. To go along with resiliency, you need to cope with transitions cause they are hard. Change is hard. It is important to learn to accept change, and what you can control, and out in new routines to be successful. For students, it may mean learning in new ways versus just giving up, athletes, adjusting workout routines, and general clients trying new things, all fall under this observation.
6. Professionally, but I think something that applies to everyone, it is important to establish boundaries. Working from home made it easy to just work if I wanted to, but for my own mental health I know I needed to set boundaries or burn out was a guarantee.
7. It is important to prioritize and plan. It is important to be okay not being able control everything or get it all done. Focus on what is truly Important.
8. Communication is so important. Families had increased time together which on one hand was very important as relationships were able to deepen. On the other, many simply became sick of each other and needed a break at some point. Communication and managing this was exceptionally important, including sharing real feelings or being honest to solve conflicts. Communication transcended families, as without clear communication with schools and rheir expectations reduced stress. Consistency and communication in expectations around sports also was important as athletes thrive on it.
9. Having a sense of humor has been important as sometimes we all just needed to sit back and laugh at the world. With this, and it has been stressed before self care is essential.
10. As we have mentioned in other blogs, critical thinking and rational thought is so important. Seek information and constantly ask questions. These are definitely skills that society bas been lacking over the past year.
11. Supporting those around you is so important. Many colleagues and referral sources have really struggled through the pandemic, and I have done my best to help any way I could. Everyone’s mental health wins when we do this.
12. Listen, listen, listen. We have been bombarded by so much information over the past year, but have we really listened to it and integrated into ourselves even if we disagree with it?
13. Pay attention to nutrition as even I have realized mine has slipped. Too many leftovers. With that we might as well add in exercise and sleep management as they also impact mental health.
14. Complaining gets you nowhere. Take a deep breath and find a way to solve the problem. With time, patience, and reflection, the problems can be solved.
15. Set goals and targets for the next step of what you want to accomplish. One of my main observations is that at no point has society really set specific targeted goals, and methods to get there. Instead many people have just sat stagnant, leading to more frustration and stress.
16. Try something new or think outside the box. You never know what be fit may come from it.
17. Recognize when it is time for break. We mentioned self care previously, but it cannot be over emphasized. If you are going to try something new, this may even mean taking a break and going somewhere new that you have never been.
18. Stay out of politics best you can. We believe in separating mental health and politics, but unfortunately politics is intruding into every level of life. The negative impact on mental health has shown itself because ulterior motives have superseded the mental health of clients. As a society, we need to rethink the way we do things and find a way to separate these two areas.
19. Family and friends are number one. Nothing can replace them, and nothing is better for one’s mental health than these two groups.
20. Although change is hard, being open to growth is so important. You can’t be stagnant and live in a hole. Life doesn’t work that way so enjoy the growth. Here is to the next step of growth in 2021.
These are just a few of my reflections from the pandemic. I’m sure I have missed others, but it has beena long year professionally and personally. I am looking forward to the next steps and moving forward with all the growth I have undergo ne over the past year. I hope you are ready to do the same.