What a year – 2020!

When 2020 was around the corner, I thought that it sounded like a great year. I love even numbers, and the metaphor of ‘2020 vision’ seemed obvious! But then we began the year with the Australian bushfires, followed soon after by COVID-19.

It has turned out to be an extremely challenging year. This year my blogs have been about disasters. I feel for all of those affected by COVID-19, either being unwell, losing employment or experiencing the loss of loved ones.

But humans are resilient creatures, and so far we have done our best to adapt to the necessary changes. And in the community, there have been helping hands offered, as well as kindness and support.

We need to keep this support going, especially for those whose physical or mental health and wellbeing has been impacted.

Mental health impacts of COVID-19

Mental health has been reported to be ‘second wave of the pandemic’, with calls for coordinated response to the increase in long-term mental health problems (Noyes, April, 2020).

Earlier this year, Professor Patrick McGorry said that most Australians will bounce back (but) a significant number would find it harder: “One third of Australians vulnerable or already have mental health problems, and in this sort of situation, are at great risk of (experiencing) a new episode. We know from previous disasters that at least 20% of the population will be at risk of that” (Willis, April, 2020).

Studies are underway, and so far the rise in stress, anxiety and depression has been reported to be between 13 and 21% (Mannix, June, 2020). Beyond Blue have had a large increase in hits on their forum site, and Lifeline has had a 25% increase in calls.

Our mental health has been impacted by the significant stress and anxiety related to COVID-19, generated by change and uncertainty. Our sense of identity and meaning has been challenged, and many have experienced loss and grief.

However, many have found reserves of strength and courage to cope. Humans are adaptable.

Positive coping

Some positive ways to cope and adapt have included:

  • Focussing on being rather than doing.
  • Reconnecting with family members.
  • Enjoying the garden or getting out into nature.
  • Slowing down, e.g. reducing commitments, working from home.
  • Being grateful for your health, health workers, your family, hobbies or pets …
  • Taking time to review life and what is important.
  • Reviewing occupation and purpose.
  • Considering COVID19 as an opportunity to reset life!

Questions to consider

It may be helpful to consider some of these questions in the last few months of 2020?

  • What changes have you experienced (bad/good) during COVID-19?
  • What has been most challenging? Most enlightening?
  • What opportunities has this journey given you?
  • Have you re-evaluated what is important to you in life (your values)?
  • What changes to do you want to maintain beyond COVID-19?
  • What aspects of your past life do you want to return to, or not return to?
  • Have you already made some significant decisions about your future? What are they, and how do they feel?

So let’s wind back to the start of this blog!

What if 2020 does turn out to be a very important year, the year to change many things for the better? Maybe it has been a year for personal growth, or for improving how we look after everyone in our community?

Above all, we need to remain caring, resilient and hopeful, and get through this together!

New online program

Please check out our online program; “How to cope with uncertainty and anxiety, and go beyond COVID-19”.

See the home page: www.drcatehowell.com.au for more information, and we hope that you can join us!

Useful Resources


Mannix, L Here comes the COVID-19 mental health surge; retrieved from wwwsmh.com.au/national/ on 20th August 2020.

Noyes, J. April, 2020. Australia urged to plan for coronavirus mental illness wave; retrieved from www.smh.com.au/national/

Willis, O. Mental health toll of coronavirus to create ‘second wave’ of pandemic, experts warn; retrieved from www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-04-30

Contact Dr Cate

If you would like to speak with me, please contact me via phone, email or the website.

I look forward to talking with you about mental health and wellbeing education, coaching, speaking or writing.


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