So many aspects of our lives have been completely disrupted by the pandemic. And if your days and weeks are filled with more lows and more stress, you're definitely not alone.
"I would say that more people seem to be struggling because of obvious reasons of isolation, financial struggles and being stuck in the same house with people they may already have struggled to get along with or being parents of kids who are struggling with the transition to the COVID lifestyle," says Dr. Noshene Ranjbar, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and faculty at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. "... It's not true that everyone's struggling more but I would say, certainly for a lot of the adults there has been more stress."
But people may be hesitant to seek professional help or therapy for many different reasons, including the stigma that surrounds mental health and a general lack of knowledge about what resources and different therapies are available. Many people might also be turning to other ways of coping with their feelings.
"I think those differences have to do with cultural differences, with ways people try to find relief — some people are obviously going more toward substances and ways to self-soothe with more electronics or more screentime, more food, more alcohol or whatever to try to cope," Ranjbar says. "Hopefully some people are exercising more and taking better care of themselves."
When it's time to seek professional help
So, how can you tell if what you're doing isn't enough and it's time to seek help from a mental health professional?
"Basically every human being has resiliency or protective factors, and vulnerabilities, it's just part of who we are," Ranjbar says.
Vulnerabilites can include things like a genetic disposition to mental health disorders or substance abuse, poor nutrition, poor sleeping habits and medical conditions. Protective factors include how well we can self-regulate, having good nutrition and sleep, healthy relationships and having our basic needs met, Ranjbar says.
"So when those are all in place, then we can take more stress without falling apart," she says. "And when those are lacking, so now there's a divorce, and there is a pandemic and finances are not good, then you can see the stress factors are going up, the vulnerability is going up and the protective factors aren't rising to meet the amount of stress. Then almost anyone can tip over into mental health issues."
She says it's important to be aware of what's contributing to your vulnerabilities and how those could be overpowering your protective factors in negative ways like too little or too much sleep, unhealthy eating habits, easily losing your temper with others, and ways your work, social life or relationships are being adversely affected.
"When the things that we're usually doing to make ends meet and to function and hold it together as healthy adults — when those things are getting impacted, then you can't really just rely on your family to be the only source of support or it's not enough to just go to your church person or just go to a friend because none of those systems have everything to provide," she says.
Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm or harming others are obvious signs that you should seek immediate care. Pima Helpline has a list of hotlines you can call to connect with some immediately if you are in crisis.