Everything You’re Feeling Right Now Is Normal, Don’t Google It
People are taking to the internet to Google if how they’re feeling is normal, due to their mental health deteriorating as a consequence of the ongoing pandemic.
Data collected by the Mental Health Foundation found that more than half of the UK population in December had felt anxious or nervous in the previous two weeks, something that has been demonstrated through Google trends.
According to Bupa, the question ‘Is it normal to cry everyday?’ has been searched 2,900 times over the course of the pandemic, up from 1,300 pre-lockdown.
The Mental Health Foundation also found that as of December 2020, 23% of the population had reported feeling lonely, with 18-24 year olds making up a large percentage of this number. Linking to this, Bupa found the question of ‘Is it normal to talk to yourself?’ had been searched more than 8,100 times worldwide during lockdown – up from 3,600 before the pandemic.
However, with the past 12 months being so unprecedented, it’s safe to say there is no ‘normal’ way to feel right now.
Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for Mental Health at Bupa UK, told UNILAD why he thinks people are struggling with their mental health now more than ever.
He explained, ‘The way we live day-to-day and the people we spend our time with has changed a lot due to the pandemic. You may be spending more time than ever with your household, or more time than you’d like to away from loved ones.’
‘This current winter lockdown – with its strict regulations, dark nights and poor weather conditions – may have left you struggling more than usual. The winter is a challenging time mentally for lots of us anyway, but when combined with a global pandemic, it may feel more overwhelming than usual,’ Pablo continued.
Bupa UK Mental Health Nurse Adviser Caroline Harper added, ‘The pandemic and sustained lockdown periods impact our mental health because we have no current examples or points of reference – we can’t speak to someone else who’s already been through this experience before, as nobody of our generation really has.’
Caroline further explained:
We know that being social is a big part of what makes life enjoyable – people need contact with other people to maintain their mental wellness. After almost a full year of COVID restrictions, it’s completely understandable that many people are finding their mental health is suffering as a result of social isolation.
Following the spike in questions on whether they way people are feeling right now is ‘normal’ or not, both Caroline and Pablo emphasised that what’s ‘normal’ is different for each and every one of us.
‘Normal’ means something different to everyone. Our unique personalities and individual experiences shape the people that we are and our resilience against situations. One in four adults are dealing with mental health problems every year, so there’s no shame in whatever you’re going through.
The pandemic is something we’ve never experienced before. We’re still learning how to manage our days, emotions and the changes in restrictions, all whilst dealing with alterations to our personal and working lives.
Meanwhile, Caroline said to UNILAD, ‘Being a mental health nurse, many people ask whether I think they’re ‘crazy’, or if I think they’re ‘mad’, but I reiterate to each person that it’s part of human nature to feel bad or struggle at times, but it doesn’t have to last forever when there’s people and resources to help.’
She continued, ‘Additionally, one person’s ‘bad day’ may actually be deemed to be another person’s ‘good day’ – each and every one of us is different and there really is no ‘normal’.’
Pablo also homed in on how it’s better to talk to family and friends if you’re struggling, rather than turning to Google for answers. He explained, ‘While our research shows that people are turning to Google to sense-check how their thoughts, emotions, sexuality and relationships have been affected during lockdown, it can’t replace confiding in someone trusted, whether it’s family, friends or a health professional.’
‘Our message is that there’s no right or wrong way to feel – especially during a pandemic – but remembering that you don’t have to carry those feelings on your own is paramount to better mental health in the long term. The earlier you reach out about it, the better.’
Pablo went on to advise that if you’ve found the pandemic has been taking its toll on you and your mental health for more than two weeks, it’s vital not to bury your feelings and that you should confide in a health care professional and/or your loved ones.
Caroline added that it’s important to determine what’s ‘normal’ for you personally. She told UNILAD, ‘If you’re feeling out of sorts, questioning what’s normal for you may feel natural. But learning about what’s normal for you, and what could be a mental health problem, makes it easier to understand yourself better and find the right support if you need it going forward.’
‘Being in tune with your emotional intelligence helps you to better identify what’s ‘normal’ for you, then when and how to act to help yourself going forward, if you’re not feeling like your usual self,’ Caroline continued.
Both Caroline and Pablo also emphasised the positive impact eating well and physical exercise can have on your mental health.
You can find out more ways to access support here.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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