Marioli Sterling Discusses How the Second Wave of COVID-19 is Impacting Our Mental Health
With the global pandemic continuing to land more people in hospital, it’s safe to say we’ve entered the second wave of COVID-19. However, there’s another health concern worrying experts this flu season and it all has to do with our state of mind.
Marioli Sterling is a social worker based in New York City. As a frontline worker carefully watching the effects of COVID-19 on broader communities, she is concerned for the mental wellbeing of many different groups within the population.
“As we begin the winter season, it’s no surprise to see cases of the virus rise,” she says. “What’s equally concerning is the compounded effect it will have with pre-existing mental health conditions in all age groups and across demographics.”
It’s been ten months since COVID-19 began to significantly impact everyday life. The extended period of isolation has undoubtedly caused an increase in symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. As cases spike, there is a growing concern that people will begin to feel dismayed and burnt out. After all the isolation, wearing masks, and not going about life as we normally do, the increased number of cases can make it feel like our efforts have been in vain.
As the months stretch on, young people are at risk of depression as they look towards an uncertain future with a poor economic outlook. Baby Boomers, people aged between 56 and 74, may be looking at delaying retirement due to poor returns on investments, loss of income, and the need to support younger or older family members. Seniors, particularly those in assisted living or nursing home situations, are at greater risk of falling ill due to increased stress or depression.
Closely Monitor Signs and Symptoms
“If you know you suffer from a mental health condition, it’s important to pay close attention to your symptoms and watch for warning signs,” says Sterling. Catching an episode or downswing early can be the key to keeping it from getting out of control. Some things she says to look out for include changes in sleeping patterns or eating habits, sudden changes in activity levels (from fatigue to restlessness), reliance on substances to cope, negative thoughts, and feedback from family and friends that suggest they are worried about you. “If you notice these signs, reach out to a healthcare professional such as a therapist, social worker, or doctor,” she urges.
If possible, Marioli Sterling recommends taking steps to reduce stress and increase positive thoughts. She suggests reaching out to your support network to check in, even if you are feeling okay. Keeping the connection with them is important not only for you, but for your loved ones as well. Making time for hobbies and activities that make you feel good is another great strategy for feeling productive and positive. Sterling also recommends starting or continuing with a meditation or mindfulness practice, which can help keep you grounded and in control of your thoughts.
“Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that you are not alone,” says Sterling. “Make the effort to stay connected even if it can only be through video chat for now.” As a social worker, Sterling knows what the power of community and relationships can do for people experiencing a mental health condition or even crisis. “Even when we have to stay apart, it’s important to stick together,” she says.