Over the past 17 months, the coronavirus pandemic contributed to many circumstances that led to physical and emotional suffering. It swept through like a tropical storm on a path to destruction, leaving all types of hardship in its wake.
As the virus spread, addressing our nation’s mental health became almost as urgent as attending to our physical health. Yet despite the spike in psychological challenges at its onset, the clouds for most people parted rather quickly. Now, clinical scientists and research psychologists want to know how?
Current statistics provide proof that this pandemic was one we weathered well – or was it the storm that weathered us?
Early in the pandemic, major life changes to people’s livelihoods and health contributed to a drastic increase in cases of anxiety and depression. We could have never seen any of this coming. Nor could we have collectively prepared for the level of loss and devastation that many people faced. But given the circumstances, the dramatic rise in mental health conditions that spring was to be expected.
Once the summer of 2020 came around, the levels of reported psychological distress began to drop. Overall levels of depression and anxiety came back down to where they were before the pandemic. This prompted further curiosity among researchers who asked participants across the globe how they would rate their life on a scale of 1 to 10. It came as a surprise to see that after a few months into the pandemic, the average life satisfaction rating was the same as in the years prior.
Reflecting on these numbers, it is almost as if nothing ever happened.
But that would be the wrong way to phrase it for two main reasons.
For one, some people are still facing life-changing stress and suffering. And two, there is so much that did happen – we became more resilient. The data we see now doesn’t suggest that everything is back to the way it was but that we can bounce back even when it’s not. What we now know is that we are not only capable of enduring major life challenges and changes but overcoming them.
As the pandemic persisted month after month, those who lost their jobs and encountered financial setbacks found ways to support themselves and their families through it.
Many of those who lost their loved ones realized that they could carry on emotionally. We all faced sudden lifestyle changes like working from home and maintaining social lives via Zoom.
While no person’s situation is identical to another, we have all faced similar obstacles, learning lessons along the way. And while each of us bounces back at our own pace, overall, this pandemic has shown us that the pain of negative life events seldom lasts as long as we think it will.
This pandemic required us to access our cognitive resources and apply our cool-headed abilities to consider helpful and positive paths. And if we have learned anything from this pandemic, there is so much that we already knew. The coronavirus pandemic was undoubtedly a lesson in resilience, not just because it encouraged us to make the best of the worst situations. It also showed us how resilient we already are.