The terms “unprecedented times,” “uncertain times,” “challenging times” have become commonplace since March.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every corner of our lives. Some have contracted the virus and struggled to recover. Some have lost loved ones. Childcare challenges and relationship issues have come to a critical point for many.
We have experienced forced business shut downs, loss of employment or adjusting to working from home. The economic situation has been devastating, leaving families struggling to get food and keep a roof over their heads. Our country has become even more divided politically as our approach to recovery and reopening has been hotly debated.
These experiences can be traumatic for anyone, but many of those who have a history of previous psychological trauma may be dealing not only with the current situation, but also with past events haunting them.
Symptoms may include any of the following and more.
- Memories may come flooding to the surface. It may seem that they come out of nowhere, maybe while you are relaxing at the end of the day or even when you are focused on a task at home. Images or scenes may just pop in your head, sometimes quite vivid, even flashbacks during which you feel like you are reliving the experience. Emotions can be intense.
- Anxiety and depression can intensify. You may have difficulty feeling safe anywhere, worried about your own wellbeing of that of your family and friends. Or you may experience the depletion and even hopelessness that can come with depression.
- Numbness is a common response to trauma. You may feel cut off from your emotions, unable to feel happy or sad, peaceful or angry. Some say they feel “empty,” even having difficulty connecting with loved ones or asking for support.
- Sleep may be challenging. You may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Getting yourself to go to bed at an appropriate time for you to begin with may seem like an impossible task.
- Avoidance of memories or information regarding the current situation is common. You may try to push away the old memories or avoid situations that trigger difficult emotions or memories.
- Muscles may tense up, causing physical pain. Your shoulders or back may hurt from tight muscles, resulting from a stress reaction – your body naturally tightening to protect you from perceived danger.
If any of this describes you, first and foremost, know that you are experiencing a normal response to a very difficult situation.
You are not weak or broken. These are extraordinarily tough times and you are not alone in your challenges. So the first step is to be as gentle with yourself as you can be. Treat yourself as someone special to you, worth taking care of.
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
- Eat well. Healthy foods fuel your body to function well and can impact your mental health as well. Limiting things like alcohol, caffeine and processed sugar can also help.
- Get some exercise every day, within any limits that your doctor recommends and while following recommendations to protect yourself from Covid-19 infection. A walk or an online yoga class are gentle ways to move your body. If you like more intense exercise, weight training or a run can be great.
- Write it down. Journaling can help you express what you are experiencing and feeling. You may want to get a journal specifically for this. It can be as simple as a spiral notebook or as fancy as a specially bound diary. And if you prefer, you can try drawing it out. Use markers, crayons, whatever you have on hand, to draw your experiences.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member. You have likely been separated from important people in your life, so you’ll need to be creative to find ways to connect. FaceTime and videoconferencing apps like Zoom can be better than a simple phone call, so that you can see your loved ones, including their facial expressions. Even seeing where they are physically can be comforting.
- Set a consistent bed time. Start winding down about an hour before bed by reading a book, listening to some soothing music, or something else you find relaxing. Then get up at the same time every morning.
- Try meditation. There are good guided meditations on YouTube – just check the ratings to find good ones. Or you might want to download an app like Calm or Insight Timer for a variety of guided meditations and other mindfulness tools.
If you would like support and are looking for a therapist, please contact me for a free consultation.
To find out more about my services in Boca Raton, FL, click here Trauma Therapy.