Sustaining Survival Instincts In A Pandemic
Coping with trauma from COVID-19 spikes examines the impact of a ‘renewed’ surge in COVID-19 infections on your mental and physical health. And how you can maintain your well-being amidst potential health problems.
Recently, whether, ongoing or reinstated, lockdown measures have seriously affected many people’s mental and physical health, as well as their livelihoods. And with slip-ups here and there over the management of COVID-19, it has been a season of global confusion.
Trauma, in this case, is not the type often linked to armed invasion or shooting. The COVID-19 spike-induced trauma is a situation where your expectation about life and the world is disrupted. This then unleashes a state of extreme confusion and uncertainty that traumatize your mental and physical health.
The Debate To Reinstate A Fresh Lockdown, Or Not
Currently, countries easing restrictive lockdown measures are being hit with huge COVID-19 spikes. As a result, the response is either to reinstate a fresh lockdown or replace it with a selective local lockdown. Both responses have triggered debates around the validity of loosening or maintaining lockdown.
For now, three scenarios came out of these debates. First, you felt safer and less anxious when states are under lockdown. Second, you are happy for restrictions to ease, as long as extra safety rules are put in place to enable coping with trauma from COVID-19 spikes. Third, COVID-19 spikes, and resultant fresh lockdown, may make you erratic, anxious, and afraid. Moreso you are more worried about what the future might hold.
In the end, the major goal should be to balance the levels of risks involved in fresh lockdowns or relaxed restrictions.
Health Traumas You Face From COVID-19 Spikes
Mental health trauma
Mental health is a key component of general health and well-being. That means your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. As such, mental health impacts your thoughts, feelings, and how you act. Hence, your ability to handle stress, relate with others, and make healthy choices often depend on the state of your mental health.
The effect of COVID-19 has been linked to increased stress and anxiety globally. And since COVID-19 is not likely to end anytime soon, symptoms of mental health trauma are expected.
But mental health challenges linked with COVID-19 are not the same as common stress management. Or the interventions from a ‘visible’ destructive storm or earthquake. The problem with COVID-19 is its invincibility. You can’t see it. You look outside and things look good. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Therefore, it is this uncertainty that makes it harder for people to remain resilient. And subsequently, they feel hopeless and confused.
What is being done to help you cope with mental-health trauma?
The impact of the pandemic on mental health is only now coming into focus. Nonetheless, the basic principles for mental health remain the same five core elements of an intervention. These are 1. calming, 2. self-efficacy, 3. connectedness, 4. hope, and 5. a sense of safety.
Furthermore, learning from what’s helpful for PTSD, depression, and anxiety can still be put in place in coping with trauma from COVID-19 spikes. Though these may have to be adjusted slightly.
Finally, it is equally important to establish protocols for managing a mental health emergency as done for physical health.
Physical health trauma
Scientists are now slowly unraveling the full impact of COVID-19 on physical health. For instance, a recent study assesses the incidence of a health condition, that doctors relate to mental stress, known as stress cardiomyopathy.
Stress cardiomyopathy, which is also called broken heart syndrome, occurs in response to physical or emotional stress. It is a condition caused by intense emotional or physical stress. Which then leads to rapid and severe reversible cardiac dysfunction.
When you experience stress cardiomyopathy, the symptoms are similar to a heart attack like chest pain and shortness of breath. However, unlike a heart attack, nothing is blocking the coronary arteries.
Even though scientists do not know the exact mechanisms that drive stress cardiomyopathy. Still, some believe that stress hormones might hinder the heart’s ability to pump blood adequately. So, when you feel suffocated by stress, it is crucial to contact your doctor.
How you can cope with physical health trauma
In the meantime, you can find relief from stress through exercise, and meditation. It also helps to reach out to family and friends, while maintaining physical distance and other safety measures.
How To Open ‘Smart’ Amidst The COVID-19 Spikes
- Focus on mortality reduction and transmission suppression (mandatory face- masks, testing, contact tracing, social distancing, hand washing, etc).
- Launch rapid and targeted responses, including restrictions and increased testing.
- Introduce the second lockdown if suppressing activities are not working as desired. Especially in places where there is no quick and proportionate reaction.
- Take individual behavior measures to protect each other in the community.
- Strengthen government leadership and public health officials to coordinate broad strategies, and communicate truthfully, clearly, and consistently.
- Determine the risk of international travel and agree on global and national policies/protocols.
- Ensure equal access to vaccines (when available) for poor countries with poor infrastructure.
COVID-19 Is Not A Quick Dash, It Is A Marathon
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, several people saw the virus as a short-term ‘epidemic’ that will soon wear out. But not so. Global coronavirus statistics update are 17,513,679 infected cases, 677,566 deaths, and 10,967,749 recovered. And with no relief in sight, the truth is we are in a pandemic marathon. In other words,
[COVID-19] is itself a marathon – over 26 miles long, and we’re barely at the 10-mile marker. We have a long way to go, and we have to find what is going to get us to the finish line. Guillermo “Memo” Sanchez
The reality is that the fight against COVID-19 is going to be continuous. This will likely play out as a relaxation in places, and perhaps increased interventions again to control the spikes.
Some top scientists and government officials are not advising a return to total lockdown. However, their focus is on coping with the trauma of COVID-19 spikes by suppressing infection and mortality on one hand. While introducing effective interventions in physical and mental health traumas, on the other. This having been said, the unpopular truth is that in the absence of an effective vaccine at the moment,
There will be no return to the ‘old normal’ for the foreseeable future. WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, July 13, 2020
Photo Credit: Creative Commons