6 signs the pandemic may be hurting your mental health as COVID-19 lingers on

Here's how COVID-19 may affect your mental health
Here's how COVID-19 may affect your mental health

HOUSTON – Signs of mental health struggles can appear up to 18-months after a traumatic event, according to the Clinical Director of the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center, Audrey Omenson.

This means some people could be feeling signs and symptoms of the mental strain right now and not realizing it’s directly linked to the pandemic.

Signs of the pandemic taking a toll on mental health are all around us, Omenson used the example of increased road rage and homicides. There’s also an increase in people acknowledging they feel depressed, anxious and irritable.

Omenson said the pandemic may lead to these emotions popping up much later since this difficult time is different from most traumatic events that happen in a short timeframe and then end. For example, Hurricane Harvey lasted about a week, and then people were able to begin recovery. The pandemic is ongoing.

“The way our nervous system works is it can keep us going, keep pumping us with adrenaline, keep us in ‘go mode’ or while we don’t have an option, ‘I’ve got to keep doing this.’ But we can also tell when we experience some relief, and sometimes it can feel really counterintuitive or confusing at the moment, but sometimes when our body senses a relief space, we can rest a little bit,” Omenson explained. “Some of these things might be coming up more for them now because there’s a little bit more space to actually feel it.”

Whether you lost a job, lost a loved one during the pandemic, or just feel the stress that comes from managing new childcare and work routines, some examples of symptoms you may struggle with include:

  • Fatigue
  • Burnout
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling stuck

Her advice is to talk to a doctor, therapist or friend about those feelings. The pandemic has made it easier than ever to get professional help through virtual visits, apps, and overall eliminating the stigma about struggling with stress.

“It’s possible to have a sense of well-being in your day-to-day life, and we don’t have to just silently suffer,” Omenson said.

Last year, the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center had 1,300 more sessions than the previous year. Omenson anticipates they’ll have even more in the year to come as they currently have a waiting list to meet with their counselors.

The Nick Finnegan Counseling Center collects payment from all patients, but will work with them on what they’re able to pay.