By Olivia Haveron
As we enter a new year, it feels almost as if 2020 has never truly ended. While the COVID vaccine starts to roll out to more and more individuals, we are still forced to stay at home — isolated from most others except our family — in order to prevent sickness. And with all of this isolation and fear of unknowns comes major anxiety and even depression.
Now, most people have been feeling this for months; however, this time around as we began to enter this new year believing that maybe — just maybe— it won't be as terrible as the last. Our hopes have already been disappointed two weeks into the year and everyone is on edge.
Initially, families enjoyed the idea of slowing down, spending more time together. For the first time in years, my family — for example— was able to sit down every night for home cooked meals. We weren’t running around with sports or work or school. But now as we draw near to the one-year mark of this pandemic, our tune has changed. After all of this time with our family, we need a sort of separation as constantly spending time with the exact same people gets emotionally draining.
On top of that, one member of the family's stress can cause a chain reaction to everyone else in the household, especially on younger children who have been experiencing more stress in their lives than ever before. A study by RAPID — Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development Early Childhood Household SUrvey Project— shows that caregivers with lower incomes, especially during this time, are experiencing more depression and anxiety, which directly impacts a parent’s ability to be available. “When a family is stressed about meeting basic needs, the next week they report more emotional distress, and the week after they report increases in their child's emotional distress.” Because we are seeing no one other than our families, we are expelling our emotional distress onto them as well, creating an enigma of stress.
Doctors have been noticing for youths, while there has not necessarily been an increase in the number of children coming to the waiting room with suicidal ideation, the physical impact of stress has been baring its symptoms more onto children. These symptoms include vomiting, not eating as much, or the complete opposite, children gaining an alarming amount of weight. Dr. Lisa Denike, chief of pediatrics for Kaiser Permanente Northwest believes the cause of weight gain is due to the more sedentary lifestyle of online school, snacking, stress and very little activity.
We are all anxious with non-stop thoughts of will this ever end? And while the answer to that is simply yes, not knowing how long and not being able to have any slither of control over the situation leads to even more anxiety.
Doctors and nurses, the people who are here to take care of us and make us feel safe, are the ones being hit the hardest. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, doctors, nurses and emergency response personnel could be even more at risk for mental health problems in the future. Those who were exposed to the virus or at a much greater risk of infection had a significantly increased risk of acute traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression based on screening. While I don’t work in as high risk environments as a hospital, I have been working at a dental office for the past few months. I have noticed that by working here, while still at the front desk, my stress levels, a constant fear of being exposed, have drastically increased — as if I weren’t already anxious. However, I am doing my best to keep my mental health in check.
And that’s honestly all we can do at this point along in the pandemic — put our mental health and ourselves first. This is something we all forget about sometimes and it is the only way we can get through this pandemic. It will be over one day — it is impossible to say when but one day. Our anxieties might be at an all time high, but if we have come this far, we can get through anything.