Ask The Therapist: “The pandemic has been really rough on me…I have fallen into a routine of doing the same things…”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“The pandemic has been really rough on me. I have fallen into a routine of doing the same things every day and it’s giving me anxiety. I also don’t have a job so I feel like I am not being productive with my time. Everything is constantly getting to me and nothing feels right. What can I do to break out of this?”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I hear you when you say that things have been rough for you during the pandemic. The last year and a half has left its impact, not only on a global scale, but on an individual level as well. At this time, it can be challenging to navigate through all the changes and get back into a steady rhythm of routine similar to the one that existed pre-pandemic. While there is no clear-cut method of adjusting to the new times, as each person will respond and react differently, there are some things that you can do that might help you break out of that pandemic-induced funk that you’re in.

Pandemic Monotony: How To Break Out Of It?

Anon, with the world shutting down, reopening, shutting down again and reopening again, it can be quite difficult for one to really adjust to new circumstances. Though as it stands, things are beginning to normalise a little bit more in the world, and that does give us a little more room to integrate back into society as we did before.

Recognize your current routine and what you would like to change: sometimes when we get into a specific routine, it can feel repetitive and mundane. As humans, we are primed to search for an element of spontaneity and variety. So perhaps bring small changes into your routine – whether it’s going for a walk, picking up an old hobby, or just doing whatever it is that you wouldn’t normally do.

It’s okay to be unproductive: there will be times in your life where you might be unemployed, in between jobs, or just taking some time off work. During this period, you might feel the urge to really utilize every minute of your time – yet the word “productivity” means that you need to do something that society deems as “useful”, and that idea might not necessarily align with what you need. Sometimes a person just needs to be – whether it’s reading books for leisure, getting some extra sleep, watching the hundreds of shows that you listed down but never had time to watch. I’m wondering what it would be like to ask yourself: what do I need to do for myself today? What can I offer myself?

Find outlets for your anxiety: sometimes the feeling of being in one place can be perceived as feeling trapped or stuck, and that can come with some level of anxiety and restlessness, which can feel quite overpowering. For this, one thing I would recommend is staying aware of your emotional state. If you feel your anxiety creeping up on you, or overwhelming you, it might be time to engage in an activity that might help ground you. You might opt to go for a walk, or perhaps go for a long work out, or even just take a warm shower. There are many ways one can soothe their anxiety, so look for a ritual/activity that works for you.

Explore anxiety: while methods of soothing and managing anxiety are great, it also helps to understand your anxiety and what it might be telling you. Anxiety, in essence, is our body’s way of being prepared for danger, or rather, indicating that we are in danger. These days danger can come in many forms; whether it’s physical, emotional or existential. You may choose to further explore this on your own, or you may opt to see a counsellor. Either way, some reflective questions you could ask yourself are:

  • What is bringing about this feeling of anxiety?
  • What is my anxiety saying to me?
  • What is this sense of urgency that I’m feeling?

Explore activities and skills: if you’re looking to explore other ways of spending your time during this period, you could even look at skill-building by taking up some courses online, or in-person training. Alternatively, you could engage in an activity you enjoy – music, meditation, art, gardening, baking – whatever it is that feels good. This might help you feel more grounded and aligned with yourself. 

One step at a time: sometimes the idea of changing the entire structure of our day can be a little daunting, so adjustments on a smaller scale are key when it comes to implementing change. So, start small, perhaps with the easiest change and then move up from that point. 

Be easy on yourself: I know, easier said than done. Remember, you are not alone in your struggles, Anon. This pandemic has affected billions of people in different ways. Believe me, self-compassion and empathy towards the self is needed now more than ever. Take a minute, breathe and try to ease yourself of some of that pressure. 

Anon, I know how tough the pandemic monotony can be. Take your time and just stay with what you’re experiencing. Like anything else, it is a process. I hope you are able to find your way out of the monotony and make your way to a more grounded and fulfilling place. I wish you all the best on your journey. Best of luck and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or therapy.

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