Handling Covid 19 Stress

The Stress of Covid 19

Lock down and social distancing can be detrimental to our emotional well-being because: 
  • It is an unusual state of affairs and, together with the general anxieties around potentially catching and dying from corona virus, it can seriously disturb us by removing or diminishing our normal sense of safety. This is comparable with the symptoms of PTSD, such as: hyper vigilance, high anxiety, nightmares, etc.
  • Being restricted in social contact and everyday activities reduces our repertoire of stress management coping resources - we can't go to a particular shop or on holiday or swimming or to the gym.
  • Our income could be adversely affected and our future income could be under threat.
  • Living in closed groups can be detrimental to our relationships with the people we are closed in with - our partners, children, flat mates, etc.
  • If we live alone, we can become lonely, because our normal social contacts will be reduced or eliminated.
  • We may be apprehensive about the dangers of coming out of lock down and social distancing.
  • If we are unable to work due to lock down or social distancing, in addition to potentially diminishing your income, it can diminish our self esteem and lead to depression.
  • All these stressors can lead to further difficulties such as insomnia, anger and depression.
If we or someone close to us catches corona virus, we are likely to be anxious about the outcome.
If someone close to us dies from corona virus, we will endure a process of mourning.

Handling Corona Virus Stress

When something terrible occurs, it is important to try to gradually accept the new reality if at all possible, rather than being in denial or somehow trying to push the new reality away. The saying, “It is what it is.” can be helpful here.

Adjustment & Adaptation 
It is usually useful to try to adjust & adapt to a new and stressful situation like the one which Corona virus is presenting. This means being open to new possibilities and being inventive in modifying your lifestyle.

Fight & Flight Versus Processing Difficult Feelings
Our traditional response to stressors has been to engage in combat or run away. Both of these still have a place, but it is also useful to process difficult feelings and think about them. The mourning process is a good example of this. There are many losses associated with Corona virus - the loss of freedom of movement, the loss of a job, etc. If at all possible, it can be useful to stay with feelings such as sadness and anger associated with such losses, process these feelings and, if possible, eventually even learn something developmentally for our lives from the process of mourning.

Stress Management
Stress management is very important. There are several activities which can contribute towards managing stress. These include exercise classes such as yoga and pilates, which can be accessed over the internet. Relaxation techniques such as self hypnosis, meditation and visualisation can also facilitate stress management and help counteract insomnia. There are some relaxation resources here. Stress can also be diminished by engaging in amenable activities, such as hobbies, reading, listening to music or whatever suits you. Socialising over the phone or by Skype or email or text can also reduce stress.

Maintaining a Healthy Mentality
Mental health is in many ways relative, but there are some areas which are generally helpful, such as:
  • Keeping a sense of humour.
  • It can be handy to cultivate a positive mental attitude and avoid excessive exposure to your own or other people's negative attitudes and stress.
  • It's usually useful to try to be as honest with yourself and other people as possible and to increase reality testing and diminish denial.
  • It's important to try to maintain self esteem 
Maintaining a healthy mentality is very challenging in the difficult environment which corona virus presents. Stress management and self care can be very helpful as can psychotherapy and counselling - which can be accessed during social distancing by phone, Skype, FaceTime, etc. 

Working on Your Relationship
This can be achieved by:
  • Honest discussion
  • Taking time out from each other
  • Couple counselling, which can be accessed during social distancing by phone, Skype, FaceTime, etc.

Michael Friedrich MSc.
Chartered Psychologist
Psychoanalytic & Jungian Psychotherapist

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