How to support those suffering from COVID-19 linked stress

How to support those suffering from COVID-19 linked stress


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Lesia Lancaster LCMHCA, NCC shares helpful ideas to help support those suffering from COVID-19 linked stress.

Covid-19 affects a person's overall wellness by impacting them both physically and psychologically.

Feelings of social isolation and the fear of infection are easily recognized stresses of the virus. These fears are furthered heighted by thoughts of being alone in a hospital or imagining one's own death. These experiences are indicators of acute stress, and without social and emotional support, these may lead to more intense trauma disorders. These stresses, coupled with past medical trauma, increase the potential for acute stress to become Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If someone already suffers from PTSD, the symptoms may increase and "triggers" may become more evident.

PTSD causes the sympathetic nervous system (i.e. fight, flight, freeze activators) to be on continual high alert. The additional stress of COVID-19 puts this system on hyper-alert. This may significantly impact engagements with co-workers, family, friends and even one's self. It is necessary to bring a sense of balance to the sympathetic nervous system by learning ways to regulate emotions and practice grounding.

  • Emotion regulation practice involves learning more about yourself. By naming the feeling you are having in the moment, you reduce confusion.
  • Be mindful of physical reactions to stress (a body-scan might be helpful)
  • Use relaxation practices to calm yourself (examples of techniques include: deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Practice cognitive reappraisal – reimagine your feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Do not judge yourself and exercise self-compassion

Grounding is a distraction technique to help you focus on the present moment. It can be used to help manage distressing thoughts, unwanted memories, and/or flashbacks by using the five senses: taste, smell, sound, touch and sight.

Examples of Grounding

  • Take a walk while experiencing the sights, sounds and smells around you
  • Enjoy your favorite foods
  • Listen to music
  • Use the counting method (e.g. notice 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch and feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste).

This blog is meant to support those suffering from COVID-19 stress symptoms and is not a replacement for professional care or treatment. If you have symptoms related to either acute stress or trauma disorders please contact a mental health professional.