My 5 Biggest Concerns About Mental Health After the Pandemic

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Verywell / Catherine Song

The pandemic shed some serious light on mental health over the past 14 months. As our world was flipped upside down, most people realized how important it is to care for our psychological well-being. 

When we can’t control what’s going on in the world around us, we need to turn inward and focus on managing our minds.

Many people talked openly about their mental health struggles. Celebrities, influencers, professionals, and everyday people shared their feelings and their coping skills much more openly than usual. And all the conversations and stories about mental health seemed to reduce a lot of the stigma surrounding mental illness and therapy.

Now that the restrictions are lifting, many people are appropriately breathing a sigh of relief. But, as a therapist, I’m concerned we aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to mental health issues. Here are my five biggest concerns about mental health in a post-pandemic world.

There’s Pressure to Be Happy Again

As the pandemic restrictions lift, many people are going to feel as though they should feel happy. After all, we’ve been waiting 14 months to do fun things and see our friends and family.

But that pressure to feel happy may cause people to feel even worse. Some may judge themselves for not being happy enough. 

Others may feel too much social anxiety to jump right back into socializing again and consequently, they may think there is something wrong with them.

A Lot Has Changed in a Year

On one hand, it feels like the world has been on pause for 14 months. Most people stopped their usual day-to-day activities. So when we return to our old activities, we’ll have an expectation that things should be the same as when we left.

But we’ll likely discover that a lot has changed. Some of our colleagues may have moved on. Grandkids have grown a lot. And some of our favorite hangouts might be gone for good.

Friends and family members may have changed too. And our relationships with them might never be the same again.

We’re going to experience all those changes all at the same time. And there will likely be little time to process them or to grieve what we’ve lost.

People Are Feeling the Need to Make Up for Lost Time

A lot of people feel like they just missed out on a whole year of their lives. Consequently, they’re tempted to go overboard in making up for lost time.

Whether that means planning a vacation they can’t afford to take or it means partying hard with friends they’ve missed seeing, going to extremes isn’t likely going to be good for anyone’s mental health.

Many People Adopted Unhealthy Habits

Most people lost access to their go-to coping skills during the pandemic. You couldn’t grab coffee with friends or work out in the gym to relieve stress.

Many people found themselves relying on some not-so-healthy strategies to cope. The pandemic was ripe for opportunities to overindulge in just about everything—eating too much, drinking too much, and scrolling too much.

It’s tough to give up those unhealthy habits after you’ve grown dependent on them to cope. And many people are likely to realize that those things aren’t just a temporary crutch. Instead, they may have developed full-blown addictions.

Unhealed Emotional Wounds May Get Worse

The ongoing stress of the past year forced many people to set aside their pain and suppress their emotions just to get through it. The white-knuckle approach is actually helpful during a crisis.

But now that the crisis is starting to subside, old emotional wounds may resurface. And new ones that formed during the pandemic may begin to grow.

As the restrictions begin to lift, some people will finally be able to start grieving the things they’ve lost this past year. That takes time.

It may be tempting to pay less attention to your mental health once the distractions of everyday life begin again. But, this might be a better time to double-down and practice self-care more than ever.

Get Help If You Need It

It’s been a tough year for most people—to say the least. And how we respond to what we just went through can make a pivotal difference in our psychological well-being moving forward.

If you’re struggling, ask for help. If you are fortunate enough to be able to see a professional, reach out to someone. If you don’t have access to a therapist, consider talking to someone. Whether you join a free online support group or you reach out to a friend who is a good listener, it’s important to connect with others right now.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares seven mental health mistakes to avoid after the pandemic.

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