Countries around the world are tentatively emerging from lockdown. Schools are re-opening and there are more people at work, in the malls and in the street. It may be too early to gauge the economic and psychological costs of the pandemic but experts suggest that there are benefits to evaluating how you and your family will emerge from lockdown.
The pandemic continues to have an enormous impact, even for people who have managed to not catch the coronavirus. It has changed the way that we socialise, work, look at door handles and even think about hugging each other.
The theme behind our next conference, Living and Thriving in the New Normal, focuses on the challenges that face people as they emerge from lockdown and offers solutions, practical tips, and an opportunity as always for therapists to network.
Therapists Will Be Kept Busy
Experts estimate that it takes people an average of 13 years to recover emotionally from a major disaster. It is akin to being knocked off your growth curve in life. There is never really a getting back to where you were before.
Common issues will include letting go of grief and moving forwards. It is estimated that for every person who dies, there are at least 9 people left behind to grieve for them. The emotional pain and sense of loss have been compounded by the social restrictions that have prevented so many people from attending funerals or saying goodbye to loved ones.
There are other issues that will require therapeutic attention. In the first year of COVID-19, USA helplines swelled with an increase of 890% calls for help. Suicide rates have increased globally as people struggle to wrap their heads around work uncertainty, changed social interaction, an unquantifiable sense of loss, and the inability to cope.
It will be important to ensure that kids come through this experience without losing their innate sense of optimism about the future or their ability to dream or aspire towards future outcomes. Learning about optimism doesn’t just help children. It is good for adults too.
The trend towards global obesity continued during the lockdown. Studies show that adults have eaten better thanks to home cooking and reduced takeout. But they are also eating more and moving less. An Italian study found that children under lockdown slept more and moved less. The average time in front of the screen was 5 hours and they consumed more red meat, junk food and sugary snacks while they did so.
Simply tackling obesity will keep therapists busy for a few years. This is important work as obesity can lead to serious health disorders ranging from high blood pressure, heart diseases and diabetes to low self-esteem, sleep disorders and in some instances cancer.
Studies also show that insomnia may be one of the most common neurological and psychiatric impacts from COVID-19.
Working From Home
COVID-19 changed the way that we work, and for many where jobs permitted working from home became the norm. Teletherapy followed telemedicine, and both clients and practitioners discovered that it worked very well. Long painful or crowded commutes became a thing of the past. And few can deny the thrill when dolphins returned to Venice waterways and birds sang in cities.
Of course, we discovered the importance of adequate working and living spaces and a renewed appreciation of social interaction. People struggled to create boundaries between home and work life, but we succeeded and the benefit was that we spent more time with our children and ate meals together. Lockdown, not lockdown, partial lockdown, and then lockdown again showed how adaptable we are as a species. And hybrid or working from home is likely to be a legacy of the coronavirus.
Planning For The Future
We need to be kind to each other as we emerge from the pandemic. Early reports indicate that we are all a little fragile and even people lucky enough to avoid being infected with the virus have been worn down by stress.
Anxiety and depression have increased globally and corona-insomnia is now a thing. But there are other symptoms. Dermatologists reported treating more people with hair loss and dentists have seen an increase in tooth fracture and pain as people clench and grind their jaws.
Clearly, stress management and learning resilience will be an important part of our journey towards the new normal.
It is possible that people will emerge from the pandemic sicker, emotionally more fragile and less able to cope with change. HR managers will be kept busy sourcing resilience training and coaches will begin to routinely include mental wellbeing to help companies welcome back staff. Most organisations will need to provide additional support for people who may have a hard time re-entering the workforce.
But there is also anticipation that governments and social media will discuss mental health more openly. More people have sought therapy or self-development programmes and even mindfulness and hypnotherapy courses as a way to reconnect with themselves, recalibrate and drawn meaning from the new normal. Covid-19 has been a life-changing experience for many. But it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate, and reflect on what matters and make decisions about future careers and lifestyle choices
There will need to be a time to heal and therapists will be kept busy for many years to come. Who knows, we may even be emerging into the decade of the psychotherapist.