Taking Care of Yourself: Mental Health and the Pandemic
In a previous article, we discussed some specific ways that this pandemic year is affecting all of us. Many Americans—in fact, people from all over the world—feel more anxious, uncertain about the future, and on edge. Most of these negative feelings can be easily attributed to heightened worries about our own health or that of friends and loved ones, concerns about job security or the economy, frustration with the ongoing need for restrictions or modifications to accustomed activities, and other complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It may not be surprising to learn, then, that recent surveys of mental health, both in the US and worldwide, clearly show a decline in our own opinions of our mental and emotional wellbeing. A poll conducted November 5-19 by the Gallup organization as part of its annual Health and Healthcare Survey noted a significant decrease in Americans’ view of their mental or emotional wellness. Each year since 2001, the Gallup organization has asked Americans to rate their mental and emotional health as excellent, good, fair, or poor. Previously, the aggregate rating on the survey reflected 81-89% of respondents rating their mental and emotional wellbeing as either “good” or “excellent” But this year, the average was 76%, a reduction of 6-14% from previous levels.
In a similar vein, a study conducted by LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, which included respondents in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and 50 other nations in addition to the US, found, among other things, a major increase in respondents (from 6% to 21%) who described their anxiety as “very large or extremely difficult to manage” during the pandemic when compared with levels prior to the pandemic.
Is there anything you can do to improve your mental and emotional health during this difficult time? Research suggests that one important tactic to increase feelings of wellbeing is to cultivate a sense of gratitude or thankfulness. “But,” you may ask, “what is there to be grateful for during this pandemic?” Certainly, challenges and difficulties abound, but in tough times, gratitude may be more important than ever. For example, a study published in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology looked at persons affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The study found that those who could find reasons to be grateful exhibited greater resilience than others. Similarly, a 2006 survey of Vietnam veterans published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that those who had higher feelings of gratitude experienced fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Apparently, gratitude can make you mentally stronger and more resistant to the negative effects of trauma.
Reinforcing gratitude by activities like keeping a “thankfulness journal” may even help you sleep better. A 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being found a strong correlation between gratitude and improved sleep patterns. Spending a few minutes before bedtime, jotting down things that happened that day for which you are grateful—a Zoom call with a grandchild, a “to-do” list item accomplished, finishing a good book—can actually help you get better rest, along with the well-established emotional and physical health benefits that come along with a good night’s rest.
We understand that our clients are so much more than their financial portfolios. Your wellbeing is important, and if we can provide any type of assistance, we sincerely hope you will contact us. Also, for additional tips on coping with pandemic stress, you can read our article, “Is COVID-19 Stressing You Out?” by clicking here.