One of the worst things that hit the world in the most recent times is the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, the world is getting adapted to it and its consequences, although some have argued that it has come to stay. I beg to differ, though.
The vaccines are now available but before then, the non-pharmacological interventions - social distancing, face masks and lockdowns were the only mainstay for controlling the spread of the disease. This had worked with certain levels of effectiveness but the COVID-19 and some of these interventions not only caused deaths and disability to millions of people worldwide they also caused some level of stress to you and the many other survivors today. But the question is, in what ways have the pandemic stressed you?
What is post-pandemic stress (PPS)?
COVID-19 not only surprised the world, but it has also shown the world a dark phase for over a year now. Through the period of this pandemic, millions of people have lost their loved ones, others lost their source of income, businesses were affected in diverse ways and many have been rendered handicapped from the disease. All these led to increased cases of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Because the COVID-19 was a major stressor, demonstrated in the various ways I have listed above, experts have coined a new word for the stresses caused by the pandemic, the ‘post-pandemic stress’, probably from an already existing psychological disorder known as the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Indeed the COVID-19 was a huge trauma and on the 8th of March, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) published an article to admit to the psychosocial effects the pandemic may cause individuals. Many investigations were done to understand the overall prevalence of PTSD (in this case, the Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder - PPSD). And it has been shown that emotional disbalance is one of the major reasons, if not the only reason, behind the accelerating number of neurological and psychological disorders associated with the pandemic.
It stands to reason why emotional disbalance could result from the pandemic and its consequences among the general populations of the world. However, there is a category of individuals who have been described as more vulnerable to emotional stress from the pandemic or the post-pandemic stress disorder. We will explore them now.
Who Are Vulnerable to the Post-Pandemic Stress
There are a number of people and communities who are particularly vulnerable to the psychological and psychosocial impact of the pandemic, and the exceptional public health measures implemented to contain its spread. These may include the following categories:
- People with existing mental health conditions may experience an increase in psychological distress and trauma symptoms if they are isolated. Due to lockdowns, fear of contracting the virus and restrictions of movements, their treatments and hospital visits may be disrupted. Their caregivers may also be put under additional strain.
- Older adults, especially those in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated and withdrawn during the outbreak or while in quarantine. They need practical and emotional support through informal networks (families) and health professionals because they may also have difficulty caring for themselves.
- People who are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence are likely to experience increased stress as the isolation may increase their risk, and they may be unable to seek help. Continued service provision and access for survivors of gender-based violence must be a priority now more than ever.
- Children are also considered a vulnerable group to post-pandemic stress. They may have feelings of fear and sadness at certain times. This is normal for children, but they need to express and communicate these feelings in a safe and supportive environment, and also to have familiar or new routines like engaging in age-appropriate activities, playing and socializing with others. These were grossly affected by the pandemic as well. What may be left as a protective factor to children is that they may still be close to the immediate family, and parents need to be close to their children at these times of extreme restrictions from the activities they love to reduce the effects of the pandemic on their psychological state. Indoor games and TV could have helped to some extent too. If caregivers for children are infected, quarantined, or pass away, it could lead to increased psychological issues for children.
- Frontline health care workers also faced serious hardships during and throughout this pandemic, working in extraordinary circumstances, likely to feel under pressure and stress from the overwhelming number of cases, and in many cases worried about transmitting the disease to their families.
- Another category of people who are vulnerable to the pandemic and post-pandemic stress are those who already face stigma associated with their mental health problems. They may become reluctant to seek support for both COVID-19 and mental health conditions, as it may be viewed as an additional source of stigma. These people will particularly need the support of health workers.
How The Pandemic Stressed You?
You may not have realised the full extent of stress the pandemic caused you, but here are a few ways the pandemic may have caused you stress;
- Physical stress: If you are a frontline health worker, the pandemic may have physically stressed you. If you were infected by the virus, this stressor may also be regarded as physical.
- Financial stress: Businesses were hit, many were rendered unemployed. If you were affected by any of these during the heat of the pandemic, this could have constituted a decline in your financial capacity - financial stress.
- Emotional/Psychological stress/Post-pandemic stress (PPS): We already talked about post-pandemic stress and those who are most vulnerable. If you belong to any of those categories, psychological or emotional stress could ensue. Physical and financial stress and other stress types that may not have been mentioned here can further increase the risk of developing emotional or psychological stress.
Now that we have understood the post-pandemic stress, who can you manage the stress the pandemic caused you?
Practical Management Tips For Post-pandemic Stress
Here are some practical ways to manage the emotional stress caused by the pandemic. If you are already suffering from depression or anxiety issues, these will help strengthen you to better cope and overcome the post-pandemic stress like a warrior.
It is important that you first understood what post-pandemic stress and anxiety are so you can be better prepared to handle them, and I am sure I have done a good job explaining a bit of it in this post. Haven't I?
These COVID-19 times are quite frightening for each and every one of us, and even in the US, in a well-planned county like Dallas, more than 4,000 deaths from COVID-19 were recently reported. Public places, however, are partially opened so that businesses can start returning back to track and raise people's hopes, consequently reduce emotional and financial stresses. But still, the fear of being hit by new waves of the pandemic and return to economic and financial crises lingers in the heart of many.
In these circumstances, it is important to understand your state of mind, your stress level, and your increased anxiety issues. In spite of these, carrying a positive outlook is one other major important thing to do. Here are practical ways to manage post-pandemic stress.
- Reduce panic news
- Focus on what to improve
- Deliberately control your stress level
- Sleep well
- Practice Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR exercises)
- Adjust your sleeping conditions
Reduce panic news
It is great to stay up to date with everything happening around you and in the world. The rising number of cases, the deaths, as well as the good news of vaccine successes. The news also helps reduce people's hesitancy to the vaccines, which has been a major problem worldwide. If you are particularly vulnerable to being depressed or made anxious by the news, you must have to reduce stuffing your mind with negative thoughts from the news. Many news sites use frightening headlines to be able to attract the attention of readers but to avoid panic news, stick to trustworthy sources like the WHO and other government agencies. These will not deliberately scare you.
Focus on what to improve
It’s obvious you cannot fully control the conditions of the pandemic worldwide. Thus, it is wise you focus on what you can, at best, improve. Focus on improving your overall health and take all safety measures possible. You do yourself and your family a great service when you focus on improving and protecting your health. Some of these safety measures still include social distancing, handwashing and use of hand sanitisers or disinfectants, and very importantly, taking the COVID vaccines when available.
Deliberately control your stress level
Controlling your stress level consciously may not be so easy but there are many ways you can achieve that. Some people have confirmed that meditation and yoga exercise have helped them control their stress levels. While others bluntly confirm that weeds offer them their only hopes of controlling stress through these times. In places like Dallas (US), weed has been declared effectively legal and there are many online stores that provide weed home delivery services. A simple Google search for the "best weed delivery DC", and you can have reliable weed products at your doorstep. The legalization and home delivery services of weed have accelerated the demand for weed among all age groups in Dallas and worldwide.
Seven to eight hours of sound sleep is essential for your overall well being. Several sleep troubles can hamper your lifestyle and health adversely, more likely to make you feel mentally tired, and increase your stress levels leading to many associated health issues. Many people experience stress-related insomnia and if that be your case, using essential oils or essential oil candles could help bring a sense of relaxation to your room. In any case, ensure that you have adequate sleep.
Practice Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR exercises)
Progressive muscle relaxation exercises are backed by medical science. These are exercises that address and offer supportive therapy for many neurological disorders which are likely to hamper your health during the post-pandemic stage. PMR involve tightening and relaxing your muscle groups, one at a time, in a specific pattern. The goal is to release tension from your muscles while helping you recognize what that tension feels like. The PMR procedure involves breathing exercise and sequentially tensing and relaxing all your major body muscle groups, e.g, your biceps, triceps, quadriceps, etc
Adjust your sleeping conditions
This is somewhat related to the previous point of sleep deprivation and the need to get adequate sleep. Another thing you can try if you find it difficult to sleep well at night is to consider adjusting your bed environment. For example, you can get good fluffy pillows or give your mattress an upgrade.
Stress was already major trouble for the world to deal with and the post-pandemic stress disorder made things even worse. But then, desperate times call for desperate measures. There is a need to look out for solutions that will help you overcome the stress before it consumes us. Some of these practical interventions and easy lifestyle changes might be beneficial, especially if you remain determined to overcome the mental stress the pandemic may have caused you. The good news is, with all these, you are more than halfway there.