Many psychological resources including HelpGuide, a nonprofit mental health awareness website, classify the COVID-19 pandemic as a traumatic event that causes insurmountable amounts of stress. Such traumatic events catapult control away from the individual, leaving them to feel helpless in a situation they otherwise cannot change, and unless the stressed individual learned how to properly manage this stress, it can cause damage to a person’s mental health and resurface in less savory ways.
In these situations, it is important to learn what the symptoms are in order to identify and then properly manage them. Therapist Jeanne Segal, along with Melinda Smith and Lawrence Robinson report that the emotional symptoms of such stress include feeling numb, afraid because of all that is going on around you, and helplessness because of the perceived loss of control. The United States National Institute of Mental Health, otherwise known as the NIMH, reports that symptoms may also manifest physically as headaches, feelings of fatigue, racing heart rate, and becoming easy to startle when the person is usually not. Dr Hanan Salim adds that the physical symptoms may sometimes manifest as lack of sleep due to increased anxiousness.
These symptoms are amplified if one has a preexisting mental health condition, especially if there are difficulties in visiting therapists or refilling prescriptions, as some internet users have stated. Since the pandemic makes these exceptionally difficult, some clinics have moved to offering online sessions where applicable, and some have evolved to phone applications to make sure treatment is accessible. BetterHelp is one service that’s made these times easier to cope with, as it’s an online platform that facilitates access to licensed therapists. The platform works by first having you take a survey to help the staff assess your needs before matching you with a licensed therapist. Financial aid exists for people who might not be able to pay the fees.
In Lebanon, an NGO called Embrace has a lifeline where those who feel like they are at risk can call and have any one of 60 trained volunteers talk to them in real time and help them with their situation. The NGO can also help match callers to local therapists based on their exact location within Lebanon, and their financial capabilities.
In cases where the symptoms are not particularly debilitating, picking up new hobbies can help with distracting oneself and putting all the restless energy into more productive outlets. This can explain the population’s spike of interest in banana bread and baking in general. More peaceful outlets can include yoga, physical exercise, or meditation; all of which allow the person moments of peace that can help alleviate some of the stress so it’s not as heavy to carry. In an interview with Arab News, mental health counselor Resha Erheim highlights the importance of being kind to yourself and developing a routine that can help the days blend less into the nights.
The arts and spirituality have been helping people cope, which is highlighted by a group of artists who came together to form the first Middle Eastern virtual art exhibition called Safer Spaces made available by Art Space Bahrain, a Bahraini platform for all kinds of artists, which can be accessed through this link. The exhibition is meant to serve as a safe space where raw emotions can thrive, free of any judgement.
In all cases, it is important to have a trusted someone you can turn to if things get too much for you; the buddy system is important now more than ever.
There are people all around willing to foster a safe space to listen to you or help you if things get too much. By taking WYA’s Certified Training Program, you busy yourself by learning more about the value of human life, taking your mind off negative thoughts. By joining the global WYA family, you are immediately connected to caring and thoughtful people from all around the world, who are going through the same conditions and will always be happy to lend a listening ear.
Published: September 10, 2020
Written by Huda AlJeshi, a WYAME Alumna Online Intern.