The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two.
Since its emergence in Asia in 2019, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.
But the pandemic is much more than a health crisis, it’s also an unprecedented socio-economic crisis.
Stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic, and political effects that will leave deep and longstanding scars.
Experts have predicted a ‘’tsunami of psychiatric illness’’ in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. For such a large-scale event like the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on mental health can be long-lasting.
The prevalence of common mental health disorders is expected to rise during the post-pandemic time as a result of the long-term effects of the pandemic, the restrictive measures such as social distancing and quarantine, and the socio-economic effects. This has implications for mental health services.
An inspired quote was shared with me recently ‘The darkest moments of our lives are not to be blurred or forgotten, rather they are a memory to be called upon for inspiration, to remind us of the unrelenting human spirit and our capacity to overcome the intolerable.’
People experience emotional disturbance, irritability, insomnia, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms immediately after the quarantine period. The long-term impact is considerable and wide-ranging including anxiety, anger, depression, post-traumatic stress symptoms, alcohol abuse, and behavioural changes such as avoiding crowded places and cautious hand washing. These psychological symptoms can last from several months up to three years after the quarantine period.
Social distancing could possibly lead to substantial increases in loneliness, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, child abuse, and substance abuse.
However, on a more positive note, COVID-19 has created opportunities for businesses to become more innovative. Facing external pressures, some business leaders are stepping out of their routines and comfort zones to become creative problem-solvers.
Along the way, they rediscovered their entrepreneurial spirit and provided us with a new sense of appreciation and gratefulness. It has offered us a new perspective on everything we have taken for granted for so long – our freedoms, leisure, connections, work, family, and friends. We have never questioned how life as we know it could be suddenly taken away from us.
Hopefully, when this crisis is over, we will exhibit new levels of gratitude. We have also learned to value and thank health workers who are at the frontline of this crisis, risking their lives every day by just showing up to their vital work. This sense of gratefulness can also help us develop our resilience and overcome the crisis in the long-term.
Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Deana Mitchell CMP DMCP – Deana and myself collaborated on a book, ‘God in Business’, I have the utmost respect for Deana and her work, and I know you will enjoy hearing her experiences and advice.
Deana Mitchell is an entrepreneur, mental health advocate, and co-author.
She started her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 14. Deana holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Louisiana State University and has enjoyed a three-decade career in the hospitality, meetings & events industry.
As the President of the newly formed company, Genius & Sanity, her mission is to help entrepreneurs and business owners reach their potential and thrive. The focus is to find the balance between career, success, and whole self-health.
In March of 2020, Deana founded the Realize Foundation which is dedicated to creating awareness around mental health. Specifically, depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation. Deana is going to talk to us about the importance of wellbeing and ‘Why Good Mental Health Matters’.
Thank you, Geoff, it is a pleasure to collaborate with you on this important subject.
“I woke up in the hospital, realizing I was still alive…”
In May of 1997, I survived a suicide attempt. And then I spent 23 years hiding it from the world, and from myself. During those decades, instead of practicing self-care, I threw myself into work 24/7. I was used to being a workaholic, in fact, it was all I knew.
Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, I had my first business was at the age of fourteen. In 2010, I started a venture that grew into an award-winning seven-figure company.
All came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 with the rest of the world. I found myself with no work to keep my mind occupied and no travel to keep me moving. I was learning that work was my coping mechanism. I had to focus on something, or I was not OK.
What transpired in the next few months was life-changing. There was research, many conversations, networking, learning, self-reflection, and yes therapy. The result was becoming a different person and realizing my true calling in life. Let me explain…
You see, all those years I was constantly obsessed with climbing the ladder. Driven by proving myself to everyone and anyone around me, and all the while hiding the depression and anxiety that I dealt with on almost a daily basis.
The year of COVID taught me the absolute necessity of honesty and hard conversations. There is no true success in life without some sort of failure. If being successful was easy, whether personally or professionally, it would not have the same meaning to us. There is something to say about overcoming obstacles and working hard for something. It has a deeper meaning and is more fulfilling once you get there.
Without failures and hard times, success would feel empty. I believe that God uses all the tough awful stuff in our lives for growth. Once we have experienced the bad, we can use it for good. In order for that to work, we must be willing to look inside ourselves and process the things we survive. Without self-reflection, we cannot truly be our authentic and best selves.
First, we must get honest with ourselves. I mean, really honest. In order to get there, we have to spend time alone and quiet. You must find what works for you: journaling, meditation, praying, being out in nature, listening to music… there is no right answer as everyone is different. The key is to truly connect with yourself, reflect on your life and discover the kid inside. This can be painful and freeing at the same time.
Try talking to yourself in the mirror. I have a friend that hosted a self-care challenge recently and she told us to get in front of the mirror and say, “I promise to take care of you mentally and physically every day”. I got the first two words out before the tears streamed down my face. I realized I had not taken care of myself physically or mentally in decades, possibly my entire life. I felt like a fraud.
For me, after 23 years of silence on this front, it was difficult to even remember all that I had been hiding. I am not going to lie, it was hard and there were lots of tears, but in the end, it has been more valuable than I can explain.
Talking heart to heart with old friends from childhood and college gave me the sense of the person I had lost along the way. Asking them how they remembered me, helped me find myself again. I decided how I wanted to show up in the world moving forward and I am not ashamed of my past anymore. My identity was not the career I had built, although that was the person people knew for decades.
We must look inside to understand the shortfalls and disappointments we have experienced. The wisdom you glean from being honest with yourself is immeasurable. It is freeing. Then you get to decide what to do with that information.
It will change you. Are you are feeling stuck, stressed, overwhelmed, stretched thin, and exhausted? Self-reflection and a custom plan of self-care can indeed change you into a happy, healthy, productive, rested, balanced person. It is a process, so be patient with yourself.
Next, we must get honest with the people closest to us. These conversations are hard, but I promise they will bring so much clarity and understanding. Preparing for these conversations is key.
Make sure you tell your loved one or friend that you need to have a serious conversation about something especially important to you. Make the time and space that you both need to make it productive. You cannot just schedule this as an hour in your calendar, it may need to be a whole day.
This works personally and professionally on different levels, but the person you are approaching needs context to understand what they are walking into, so they are ready, open to hearing what you want to tell them and not blindsided.
Think about the annual review you receive from your boss. You must mentally prepare for that conversation. Usually, even the criticism is constructive once you have time to digest and reflect on it. That information is painful at first but makes you stronger and better for it in the long run.
In my situation, I have the most loving supportive husband anyone could ask for, but he does not understand how my brain works. To be truthful, most of the time I do not understand how my brain works! Communication is key for him to help me get through. In the past, I hid it all. I traveled so much that it was easy to not let anyone in.
We can only hold it in and ‘go it alone’ for so long. There are people in our lives that care about us. If they knew what you were going through, they would do whatever they could to be supportive.
Having hard conversations does not end with your family and friends. It can be a business partner, employees, audiences that you speak to, or your followers on social media. If you start these conversations, there will have a ripple effect and help people in your various communities do the same.
Why do you do what you do? Does it make you happy? Do you enjoy your daily routine? I am not talking about what the people around you want you to do… or what you do to make others happy. This is not about why you make the world, or your industry better. But why do you do what you do? What is your passion? What makes you come alive? What is your life’s mission? Your true calling?
If you would have asked me those questions a year ago, I would have said I loved what I was doing. I had a wonderful husband and family, a successful business, an amazing team, and I enjoyed a plethora of colleagues all over the world. I served on several boards and was traveling all the time. It appeared that I had everything.
With the understanding I have gained over the last 10 months, the reality is that I was keeping up the appearance, so everyone saw what I just explained. But for me, I was exhausted, stressed, anxious and there was no end in sight. I was never home to spend time with the person in the world who loved me most.
The gift for me was understanding how life changes when you find your why. I lost a 20-year friend to suicide and knew at that moment I had to do something about it. That I needed to use my story to save others from the same plight. My silence did not help my friend, but the hard conversation may have.
When you understand your true calling in life and reach for it with everything you’ve got, your perception of yourself and the world changes for the better.
We all feel afraid, powerless, and alone at some point in our life. Whether it is a sick loved one or keeping our business afloat. Give yourself some grace, the world needs more kindness.
You matter, you are worth it, and you are not alone.
You can contact Deana Mitchell via the following websites and social links:
Foundation – www.realizefoundation.org