As we are exiting COVID-19 restrictions, it’s important to pause and take a moment to reflect on the potentially lingering impacts of the pandemic on our mental health. The effects of social isolation, stress, grief and financial stress that we have experienced may understandably be causing us to feel anxious about what is coming next.
It’s important to note, however, that changes in our thoughts, behaviours and feelings may be completely normal responses to stress, and that you are not alone in these feelings. In fact, 68 per cent of Canadians report that their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.
While the psychological impacts of COVID-19 have been well documented and shared widely in the news and on social media, some of us are still uncomfortable talking about what we’re experiencing and feeling. This may be a result of self-stigma.
Self-stigma—Know the Signs
Self-stigma impacts how we think about ourselves and others around us—including our family, coworkers and friends. Self-stigma can sound like this:
- I sometimes feel shame, embarrassment or disappointment that I’m seemingly unable to manage the challenges that life, and the pandemic, have thrown at me.
- I think I’m internalizing prejudice and discrimination I see aimed at people with mental health disorders because of the way I’m feeling.
- I think I should keep these thoughts to myself and act like everything is okay. I don’t want anyone to know what I’m experiencing.
If these statements sound familiar to you, you’re likely in a pattern of self-stigma. To help us all get through the next stage of the pandemic, it’s important that we take steps to ensure that stigma, particularly self-stigma, does not get in the way of asking for help when we need it.
Here are three things that you can do today to reduce self-stigma and promote healthy, help-seeking behaviours.
- Practice understanding and choose your words carefully. Be patient with yourself, reflect and try to be aware of what you are saying to yourself (“I’d be better off if I just kept to myself,” “I’ll go out in the world but I can’t let anyone know what is going on with me,” “I am so weak for not being able to handle this”). Be sure to listen and acknowledge your feelings and speak positively to yourself in a non-judgmental way (“I’m not feeling my best, and talking to someone might help me process what is happening for me,” “I might feel better if I talked to someone about this,” “I could talk to ________ about anything, maybe I should share what is happening for me right now”).
- Educate yourself and take steps to tame stigmatizing behaviours. A great way to tame these behaviours is through staying engaged with others and not isolating yourself. Recognize that the pandemic has impacted everyone and that you have your own individual experience. Don’t let stigma create feelings of self-doubt or shame.
- Access resources available to you. Learn and ask questions about the resources your organization has in place to support positive mental health. Accessing your Employee Assistance Program, a psychology benefit or other resources will help to carry you through this challenging time.