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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Stressed Out, Overwhelmed and Anxious: COVID-19 Trauma Explained

Jan 31, 2022 09:31AM ● By Jolene Ross
COVID-19 has been traumatic to people in many ways, creating major imbalances in the lives of so many. People are feeling more overwhelmed and burnt out because everything in life feels like a stressful mess with no end in sight. The demands of life have become more difficult to manage as things get increasingly overwhelming, and as a result, anxiety is at an all-time high. This is not helped by the uncertainty of when things will get back to normal, resulting in mental health professionals reporting more patients struggling to function normally.

The feelings people have about the changes COVID-19 has made in their lives can be attributed to the brain’s response to trauma. Trauma changes a person due to feelings of helplessness and lack of control of their situation. As a result, things that would have normally made a person anxious are now magnified and seem completely unmanageable. New symptoms not initially experienced at the beginning of the pandemic are now beginning to appear because of the brain’s wiring for survival. The brain fights to simply stay afloat and make it through major trauma as it is happening. Then, a while after the initial trauma, as a person begins to let their guard down, the reality of everything that has happened starts to hit and symptoms begin to appear.

Effects of Trauma

Trauma can present itself in a multitude of ways with a spectrum of severity. A person may experience confusion, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, anger, irritability, stress, depression, disconnection from the world, exhaustion, overwhelm, numbness, mood swings, sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, self-blame, sleep disturbances, somatic issues such as stomach aches and nausea, fearfulness, and just a general feeling of being unwell.

Moreover, social anxiety is worse than ever because in addition to worrying about becoming ill, people are not used to social interaction anymore. People do not want to be around other people, but they are forced to for one reason or another, causing immense mental stress. On top of not wanting to go out, people are feeling other unpleasantries like guilt because they feel as though they should want to go out and socialize, but the desire is just not there. These self-deprecating thoughts only worsen the already fragile mental state.

Those that may not recognize the appearance of these symptoms may not seek help from professionals and may feel completely alone in their experience. It is important to remember that everyone is going through these unpleasant experiences in their own way and to be gentle with oneself as we navigate through it.

Importance of Self-Care

Self-care is defined as mindfully doing activities to take care of one’s body and mind to enrich a person’s sense of well-being and promote healthy daily functioning. This may include things such as regular exercise, eating healthy foods, taking relaxing bubble baths, seeing a therapist, working with a neurofeedback practitioner, meditation, and/or whatever makes a person feel a stronger sense of positive well-being. Self-care is essential to living a happy, healthy life. Often when people are in the throes of negative emotions or are feeling overstressed, self-care is the first thing dropped from a person’s schedule because people feel they do not have the time. However, these compromises can make a person feel as though they are losing themselves in the struggle. Self-care must be prioritized.

Unfortunately, life is going to continue operating in this strange and difficult way for the foreseeable future. The only way to make it through these challenging times is to acknowledge the trauma response caused by the pandemic and to address it with coping mechanisms and strategies to help ease anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings. The importance of taking action to help oneself cannot be understated. Reach out to a mental health professional and seek treatment as soon as any worrisome symptoms are recognized.

Dr. JoleneRoss is a licensed psychologist and the founder and director of AdvancedNeurotherapy, a wellness clinic that utilizes behavioral medicine applications such as quantitative EEG analysis and neurofeedback to improve quality of life for both children and adults. She works with individuals and families challenged with neuro-cognitive, neuro-emotional and neurodevelopmental disorders.