How to overcome the psychological effects of Covid-19
Anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger attacks, panic attacks, confusion, fear, insomnia, sadness, lack of motivation, feeling lost, overwhelmed, aimless, and other psychological sequelae, came along with the COVID19. Do they sound familiar to you? Millions of people are suffering and will suffer during the next months from some of these symptoms too. You are not alone. These consequences are natural and expectable in a critical and dramatic situation like the one you are facing.
During the last months, the whole world has been facing a pandemic that killed more than 400.000 people and affected more than 6 million. Millions of people are losing their beloved ones, their jobs and even their homes. And most of the world population experienced at least two months of lockdown and social isolation and shutdowns of usual day-to-day functioning (working from home, homeschooling, limited access to necessary supplies, reduced mobility).
Like any other human being, you are not used to facing situations like these, and any small change or situation that makes you go outside your comfort zone causes stress. When the amount of stress is very high, you can temporarily lose your internal balance and experience episodes like the ones mentioned. With awareness and psychological support, all these symptoms will be reversed, and you will get back to your normal state.
In this article, I will analyze the common reactions in front of any significant change in life, followed by some tips on how to adapt to the unpredictable situations that are coming soon as a consequence of this pandemic.
How do we react to the dramatic changes related to the coronavirus?
This pandemic has forced you to change in most of the areas in your life. You probably had been in a similar routine for ages, and in a couple of days, everything changed. We went from always rushing during weekdays, commuting, working, taking care of house chores, driving our kids going to school, meeting our friends during the weekends, doing sports outside, going to malls, etc., to a situation of being 24/7 locked at home. Suddenly, life stopped you and shook you. No outdoor hobbies, no socialization, working from home (those that could and didn't lose their jobs), and the only human contact was through our phone and with those living with us. The number of changes in a short period of time has been substantial.
Change is an inevitable part of life, and there is no running away from it. If it is well planned and can produce positive results, but when it's unexpected and unwanted, change might be hard to incorporate, and we have to go through some stages before we accept it.
Let's explain these stages according to Kubler-Ross Model, which is the most reliable tool to understand change and its psychological impact.
- Denial/shock: This is the first stage, we put on a temporary defense mechanism, and we take time to process certain disturbing news or reality. Some people don't want to believe what is happening.
- Anger: When the realization comes, and we understand the gravity of the situation, we become angry and look for someone to blame, filling irritable, frustrated, and short-tempered.
- Bargaining: In this stage, we think about ways to postpone the inevitable and find the best thing left in the situation. Bargaining may help to come to a sustainable solution and might bring some relief.
- Depression: In this stage, we have low energy; we might give up feeling hopeless, trustless, and demotivated. We feel sad, indifferent towards anything in life.
- Acceptance: We realize that resisting and fighting the change that is coming doesn't help; we resign to the situation and accept it completely. When we stop resisting, we can start moving ahead in the new situation.
Can you see the connection with these stages and the symptoms mentioned at the beginning?
We don't move along the stages in a linear direction; we tend to move into stages randomly. Every individual takes a different time in each of them, sometimes we go back or get stuck. When these symptoms are extreme or we get stuck, we can suffer from a mental illness, and we need to seek professional support to restore our balance.
All things will pass, but you have to do your part
Now that you understand better the normal and expectable stages that you'll go through in front of any major change in your life, you might feel released as it's just a process, and sooner or later, you'll go through it.
My advice is that you try to be kind and patient to yourself and to those around you that are going through similar processes. Still, at the same time, you must take responsibility, there are lots of things that you can do that will help you adapt easier and protect your wellbeing.
Here, you have a few ideas that you can implement during these times:
- Try to smooth changes whenever is possible: Now that you are aware that any change in life increases your levels of stress, you can be more mindful and try to make it as easy as possible from now own. There will be more changes coming during the next months, try to adapt to them gradually. For example, if you can go back to the office, ask if you can keep working from home a few days per week during the first weeks instead of reincorporating straightaway.
- Do things that bring you joy: Create a list of the things that you enjoy, that make you feel at ease, and bring serenity to your life. Some examples are: taking a bath, reading a book, painting, baking, playing an instrument, listening to music, praying, lighting a candle. Once you find these things, have this list at hand, and whenever you feel overwhelmed, do one of the ideas on the list. You can switch your emotions and choose how you want to feel.
- Introduce mindfulness practices in your day: Yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises are amazing practices you can do that will help you connect with yourself and reduce the levels of stress that you are facing. Try to do some of these practices at least 15 minutes daily to increase your wellbeing and protect your mental health.
- Look for support: Even if you are physically isolated, you can not go to the office or visit your friends and family. There are lots of possibilities to be connected with technology. Stay in contact with people that makes you feel good, that believes in you, and brings you joy. Also, find someone with whom you can be vulnerable, expressing all your feelings, with whom you feel supported and understood. If you feel overwhelmed, look for professional psychological guidance.
- Start journaling: As you realized, you are going through lots of emotions, lots of things are going on around, you need time to process all this and express it. Writing is a fantastic way to reflect, analyze, understand, we aware of your feelings and accept things easier.
- Write gratitude lists every day: Even during the thoughtest moments, there are always wonderful things around us. You can choose where you put your focus: on the negative (coronavirus deaths, people suffering, difficulties at work) or on the positive things (having a home to stay, being able to speak with your beloved ones, having food, the sunshine). The more time you spend appreciating the things you have in your life, the better you will feel. Gratitude is a habit, and like any habit, you have to train it. It might be difficult at the beginning, but once you incorporate it in your life, it will be effortless for you to focus on the positives most of your time.
Time for healing and reconnecting with yourself
During this time, you have been forced to stop, and you probably got rid of all the distractions that keep you disconnected from who you are and from your emotions.
When you stop, lots of things might come to your mind. Not just about the present moment and the pandemic, but also from your past and your future. This can make you feel even more overwhelmed and confused.
When dramatic changes happen to your life like this pandemic, it's natural that you question yourself many things and ask yourself profound questions like: Who am I? What do I want? What is important to me?
A lot of people are facing an internal crisis, which is also normal. Now it's a great time for you to heal the wounds of the past, to reflect about your life, to reconsider your priorities, make decisions about things you were postponing, and start new things aligned to your true self.
After any change, there are always great opportunities. Use this time to reconnect, renew yourself, and be ready to embrace your future.
You are not alone
As mentioned before, we are all suffering from similar symptoms, some experience them stronger than others, and we can support each other. Feeling this way is not being weak or rare; this is just being human. Having someone to lean on and with whom you can be yourself is crucial to protect your mental health and move on.
If it's difficult for you to find someone to talk to and who can give you support or guidance during this transition, you can always look for the professional help of a Psychologist, Life Coach or Counselor. We all need support at certain moments in our life. Asking for help is not being weak, as some people say, it's loving your body, your mind and your life, and taking responsibility for them. Ignoring it or pretending that nothing happens won't solve the problem. The sooner you look for help, the sooner you be yourself again.
Making the most of this time becoming resilient, stronger, and getting ready to achieve great things in your life is possible. It's a choice, a decision, and it's in your hands. If you can do it alone, together we can do it!
If you need support and guidance, please contact me, I'm here to help you.
PCC Coach and Psychologist