There’s no denying that the COVID-19 global pandemic has shifted the way we all view mental health. Our eyes have been open to so many different avenues for wellness and fitness, and all forms of health have become a vitally important topic as the world continues to change and adapt during these unprecedented times.
It hasn't been easy to navigate the ebbs and flows of the emotional rollercoaster that is 2020, but it does help to be vulnerable and talk through everything - just ask Persia White.
Although the actress - who has appeared in series such as Girlfriends, The Vampire Diaries, and more - is used to staying isolated due to the nature and demands of her career, everything changed when COVID-19 took full effect.
“There’s a lot of anxiety sometimes, because of the pressure, and I’ve spent months at places where I can't go outside. You can go to the store and back, but you’re chased by people,” Persia explains of her career to GLAMOUR South Africa. “It’s a weird phenomena, like, what’s happening here? So it’s like, OK, how do you deal with extreme anxiety and stress, which is something that I knew a little bit about and then living it and walking it is a whole different thing. Sometimes we don't want to confront how we feel, and I’ve noticed that everybody deals with it in different ways.”
Persia got deep about mental health and revealed how she is making it through these trying times.
How has your mental wellness been throughout the pandemic?
When I think of my mental health journey in regards to the pandemic, I find this to be one of the most challenging times ever, for anyone. So it started off for a lot of us feeling like, ‘OK, I have a plan, I have a strategy.
I’m going to do this per week, I’m going to keep busy, I’ll exercise.’ I had a plan with communicating with family and friends. And then slowly, as the pandemic became a lot longer than a few weeks, and a few months, a lot of those positive habits trickled away, and I found it to be a good day, and a bad day, and a real struggle, because it’s not as though I have an experience with this particular type of situation, but I have dealt with very stressful situations and anxiety, and helping people with friends and family before.
And for the first time, I found myself feeling like, ‘Oh my God, I have to watch out for my mental health.’ And just being isolated that much, and not being able to do things that were just so normal.
For me, I think the common bond between people is what threw me the most, because I’m very friendly and outgoing, and I like to say ‘hi’ to neighbours, and people, and all that ended, and I feel like for a lot of us that were hanging on, it was the unfriendly, untrustworthy kind of feeling that would happen when people were feeling stressed themselves.
Someone would look at you in the mask, where you can’t see smiles, and this is just a whole new territory. One day you feel on top of the world, one day you can’t get out of bed.
Are you leaning on family and loved ones when things get difficult?
I feel really lucky because I have a daughter, and she only sees us, and she spends time alone and then with us, and I felt like because, for her, i wanted to be a show of strength, so i would always try and find my higher self to be a positive role model, even when I wasn't feeling the things that i was saying, so it makes you reach for something.
So that was helpful for me. That was probably the biggest thing. I read something about anxiety, and that was one of the helpful things, which was to help someone else, ironically. A senior to deliver groceries to, or finding some local way you can be of service, is an incredible relief for anxiety, and I found that to be true for myself.
How have your past experiences in the industry prepared you mentally for this lockdown period?
Being in the entertainment industry, you do spend a lot of time alone. There’s a lot of anxiety sometimes, because of the pressure, and I’ve spent months at places where I can't go outside.
You can go to the store and back, but you’re chased by people. It’s a weird phenomena, like, what’s happening here? So it’s like, OK, how do you deal with extreme anxiety and stress, which is something that I knew a little bit about and then living it and walking it is a whole different thing.
Sometimes we don't want to confront how we feel, and I’ve noticed that everybody deals with it in different ways. Men deal with it differently than women, and it took a lot of pulling to get to any true feelings, because people are just dealing with it differently. All of us are.
But the journey has been good. I feel good in the sense that i’m in a better place than when this started, because it feels like it's not going away.
As we try hard to reconnect, what can people do to check in with their most vulnerable or lonely loved ones?
We have to take it day by day, and adapt, and take care of each other, and reach out when we are feeling stressed. I tell people who are my friends, who are stressed and are going through a lot, to reach out.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to reach out to people who you care for, and talk, and get some relief. It's nice to have someone to hear you out, because that's a big component to what we’re missing, is that connection.
What are some misconceptions about anxiety that you’d like people to think differently about?
I think one of the misconceptions about anxiety is that it’s not real, or that it’s selfish, or that it isn’t an actual phenomenon. And even people who are going through it will be rejecting admitting that they are feeling this intense struggle just to get through a normal day. And I think it’s absolutely natural.
It’s something that nobody has to be ashamed of. I do see people going through levels of stress that are unhealthy and bucking it away, instead of reaching out, talking, and finding a way to cope. Instead of doing that, a lot of people are wanting to not acknowledge this feeling inside. That’s something that people should know - it’s natural, it’s OK.