By: Paula Ruiz
In 2020, the resilience of my clients has inspired me. At the end of every year I find myself reviewing the previous twelve months and reflecting on both challenges and growth I have experienced. In 2020, with the unprecedented challenges experienced globally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems especially pertinent to reflect on the difficulties and the learning the year has brought.
In early March 2020, when I embarked on opening my private psychotherapy practice, I never would have envisioned my first year to unfold as it has. Without a doubt, it has been a challenging year and our mental health has been impacted. Among many other adverse consequences, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an enormous amount of death, loss, and grief. Families and individuals have lost livelihoods, businesses, jobs, and face economic hardship. We have also experienced restrictions imposed by quarantine and lockdowns, the interruption to our social lives, relationships and routines. Many clients have told me that pre-COVID they had certain routines, hobbies, relationships that they could turn to when they felt down or vulnerable. Many feel they have lost these now.
In Canada recent mental health statistics are alarming. Canadians are reporting alarming rates of mental health challenges. One recent report found that 71% of Canadians are worried about the impact of the second wave and 40% say their mental health is worse now than when the pandemic hit in March (Click here for study). There has been increased anxiety, depression, substance use and addictions, suicidality and intensification of a range of mental health challenges. In my own psychotherapy practice, my clients have told me that in addition to fearing catching the virus, or that loved ones might catch it, the biggest challenge comes from not having the ‘normal’ coping mechanisms they had pre-COVID. Going to coffee with a friend, visiting friends, going to restaurants, going the gym, even commuting to work and going into the office provided means of distraction or opportunities for social contact that helped many to cope with every day stressors.
As a psychotherapist, I cannot underestimate the mental health challenges that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many forms of collective trauma, the mental health implications of the pandemic will likely persist for decades, and perhaps live on inter-generationally, impacting our future generations. At the same time, every day that I log into my computer and enter virtual sessions with clients (how sessions are happening these days), I cannot help but be struck by the great strength, resilience, creativity, and hope that I see.
In the midst of the challenges I hear people finding new ways to connect to their loved ones, building new routines, and taking time to appreciate the small things. I see people finding hope in the midst of hardship, beauty in the midst of pain.
In looking to 2021, I have the same words of advice for anyone reading this as I have for myself:
Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year. Warm wishes for 2021.
Paula Ruiz is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) based in Toronto, Canada. Currently, she practices virtually and sees clients from across Ontario. She works with high achieving adults who have experienced trauma to build wellbeing in their lives.