How to guard against pandemic PTSD

July 16, 2020 | by Jennifer Kenneavy, LCSW
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

This pandemic has been traumatic for many. It has created uncertainty about the future, fears about getting sick, financial concerns and many other stressors. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one from COVID-19. Being isolated from each other only makes the situation worse.

Mental health experts expect that for some people, the COVID-19 pandemic will cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some distress is normal. Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping or nightmares. You may feel numb, detached, angry, edgy or constantly on guard. Usually these symptoms pass over time.

When symptoms don’t go away, get worse or begin to disrupt your life, it could be PTSD.

If you struggle with a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, or if you experienced a past trauma, you may be more likely to develop PTSD. You may also be more likely to develop PTSD if you:

  • Lost a loved one to COVID-19
  • Were infected with COVID-19 yourself, especially if you were seriously ill
  • Are a frontline healthcare worker or first responder
  • Lost your job or have financial concerns

PTSD won’t be the only mental health consequence of the pandemic, experts predict. Other mental health issues will likely emerge, such as increases in depression, anxiety, addiction and even suicide.

Managing your stress now, and getting help for PTSD if you have it, can protect your mental well-being in the long-term.

Here are seven healthy ways to cope during the pandemic:

  1. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. Find ways to help.
  2. Practice self-care. Create a daily routine, eat healthy, get good sleep and manage stress.
  3. Engage in healthy distractions, such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, watching your favorite show, taking walks, listening to music, etc. Avoid using alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
  4. Unplug from the news, especially before you sleep. Focus on positive stories of recovery.
  5. Know that this too shall pass and the pandemic will eventually end.
  6. Stay connected. Being isolated for a long time can trigger symptoms. Research shows that support from family and friends is an important part of recovery from PTSD.
  7. Reach out for help. If you notice your normal coping skills aren’t working, you may need additional support from a professional therapist.

How do you know if you are suffering from PTSD? Check out this screening tool, and contact a mental health professional at 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.

If your symptoms begin to interfere with your life, it’s time to seek help. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

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