I’m holding this little baby in my hands. It’s my first grandson. He’s growing despite his preemie start … and he’s a little congested at the moment. My daughter, a first-time mom, called me that night, late, to stay with her. Her husband had been working long hours at a new job, and like most moms, sleep was minimal and there were long periods of time where she was alone at night. With the baby working through his first bug, stress and fatigue was mounting on my daughter. She had been feeling a lot more anxiety at that time and the doctors labeled it post partum anxiety. (I’m sure many of you can recall similar memories.)
Later, with the bug conquered, my daughter shared, “Watching you handle him, grounds me.” She explained that hearing his congestion and being alone increased her anxiety, but, “I watched you. You weren’t concerned. It puts me into perspective.”
I’ve been mulling on what she shared about being around each other and how it changes us. We aren’t meant to “do it alone”. We aren’t meant to raise our children alone, to live life alone. Statistically speaking, we live longer the more connections we have to others. Connections with others broaden and ground our thinking. Your mind can be at ease when you’re with people you’re comfortable with. They can help carry the stress and teach us how to live life. I’ve also been thinking how when our mind is ungrounded, stressed, or even sick, our life is affected; even our body will follow with declining health.
Connect and Ground Yourself Next to Others
It’s healthy to acknowledge the fallout from the last several years. We’ve observed a huge separation. We saw Christmas cancelled and Thanksgiving stalled. We missed birthdays and graduations and so many everyday moments together. The toll that this ongoing separation is taking on our minds is observable in our own lives and in the broader culture (just look at the news). Connection, that feeling and knowing that someone has your back, is an integral and vital part of our lives. We’ve been disconnected for too long, quoting …
Ever since mass lockdowns and social unrest, many Americans feel that mental health is on the decline. Is this true or a misguided perception?
First, it is important to recognize that we have experienced a shared trauma over the last two years. The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our collective mental health will take time to fully understand. People often compare the lasting impacts of COVID-19 to other natural disasters, so it is absolutely true that we have had a decline in mental health.
While only the responses of those aged 18 or over were recorded for the report, the younger adults surveyed would likely have grown up with social media—during adolescence, interactions with peers have a real impact on mental health. Social media has changed how people interact, making interactions with peers more frequent and more intense,2 and that may continue into young adulthood.
One study concerning students at the University of Pennsylvania found that limiting social media usage to around 30 minutes per day can lead to improvements in mental wellbeing3. Over the course of three weeks, students were either assigned to carry on using social media as normal, or to limit their use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to ten minutes a day each, and the latter group saw feelings of depression and loneliness decrease when compared to the control group.
Elena Touroni, PhD, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic … explains that young people, in particular, can be more vulnerable to “misplacing their self-worth with external factors,” equating what they see on social media with real life. This could have been exacerbated by the pandemic, too — studies have shown that it caused an increase in Internet addiction.
Ultimately, the psychological impact of the pandemic will harm far more people than the virus itself. And the widespread emotional trauma it’s evoking will be long lasting, experts say. Already, more than 4 in 10 Americans say that stress related to the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to an April poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic will be the most psychologically toxic disaster in anyone’s lifetime,” said George Everly, who teaches disaster mental health and human resilience at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“This pandemic is a disaster of uncertainty,” he explained, “and the greater the uncertainty surrounding a disaster, the greater the psychological casualties.”
Relationships to Help Ground You
By being together, we can nip the loneliness and isolation. We can literally change future generations by being intentionally together. Sometimes I look at the news, and I see so much societal failure and tragedy, it can keep me up at night mulling over the tragedies mounting up across this country.
Then, I step back and remember: I can’t change everything, and that’s ok. I can — and you can — influence what, and perhaps who, is around us. So wrapping back around to my stories about my daughter and new grandbaby and my family’s yearly tradition of watching the Perseid meteor shower, whether unexpected or planned, those times together have been intentional. I hope you too can seek community, mend with loved ones or find loved ones to digest and grieve what’s happened the last several years. Start by engaging with each other and leaning on each other to heal our troubled minds.