Mental Health and Covid-19
SECONDARY TRAUMATIC STRESS/STS AND COVID-19
Health professionals working with survivors of traumatic events may develop traumatic symptoms themselves. During their clinical practice, health professionals are also at risk of experiencing secondary traumatic stress. During this time secondary trauma of health professionals may increase because of prevalence of Covid-19.
STS can be manifest physically, behavioral or emotionally. Physical warning signs could be exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, increased susceptibility to illness, sore back and neck, irritable bowel, rashes and breakouts. Behavioral signs could be increased use of alcohol and drugs, anger and irritability at home and/or at work, avoidance of clients/patients, not returning phone calls at work and/or at home, avoiding colleagues and staff gatherings, avoiding social events, impaired ability to make decisions, feeling helpless when hearing a difficult client story, impostor syndrome – feeling unskilled in your job, problems in personal relationships, thinking about quitting your job, engaging in frequent negative gossip/venting at work, impaired appetite or binge eating.
Emotional/Psychological Signs could include emotional exhaustion, negative self-image, depression, increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, impaired appetite or binge eating, feelings of hopelessness, reduced ability to feel sympathy and empathy towards clients or family/friends, cynicism at work, anger at work, resentment of demands being put on you at work and/or at home, dread of working with certain clients/patients/certain, low compassion satisfaction, depersonalization – spacing out during work or the drive home and disruption of world view/heightened anxiety or irrational fears.
You can try to cope by maintaining a balance between your profession and personal life, practicing good self-care, being aware of your emotion reaction and distress, encourage patients/clients/offer your support or get support and treatment for yourself.
COVID-19 AND RESILIENCE
These specific individuals can bounce back to a state of normalcy relatively well. Some will use their trauma to propel them into a more satisfying life than they once had before their traumatic experience.
Resilient people do experience stress, setbacks, and difficult emotions, but they tap into their strengths and seek help from support systems to overcome challenges and on the other side, People who lack resilience are more likely to feel overwhelmed or helpless, and rely on unhealthy coping strategies during this global crisis.
Psychological resilience refers to the ability to mentally withstand or adapt to uncertainty, challenges, and adversity. People who exhibit psychological resilience develop coping strategies, journaling, reframing thoughts, exercising, and engaging in enjoyable activities all play a role in building psychological resilience and capabilities that enable them to remain calm and focused during a crisis and move on without long-term negative consequences.
Emotionally resilient people understand what they’re feeling and why. They tap into realistic optimism, even when dealing with a crisis, and are proactive in using both internal and external resources. Stress-reduction techniques, such as breathing exercise, and mindfulness training, can help individuals regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. As a result, they are able to manage stressors as well as their emotions in a healthy, positive way.
Physical resilience refers to the body’s ability to adapt to challenges, maintain stamina and strength, and recover quickly and efficiently. It’s a person’s ability to function and recover when faced with physical demands. Healthy lifestyle choices, building connections, making time to rest and recover, deep breathing, get enough sleep, and healthy meal all play a role in building physical resilience.
Your spiritual resilience is the ability to maintain a positive spirit even in the face of adversity. You can seek strength through a “higher” power, (regardless of your religious affiliation) in order to get through difficult situations.
PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH :TIP 1- Tell yourself something positive.
Research shows that how you think about yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel. When we perceive our self and our life negatively, we can end up viewing experiences in a way that confirms that notion. Instead, practice using words that promote feelings of self-worth and personal power. For example, instead of saying, “I’m such a loser. I won’t get the job because I tanked in the interview,” try, “I didn’t do as well in the interview as I would have liked, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to get the job.”
PROTECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TIP 2 -Write down something you are grateful for.
Gratitude has been clearly linked with improved well-being and mental health, as well as happiness. The best-researched method to increase feelings of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or write a daily gratitude list. Generally contemplating gratitude is also effective, but you need to get regular practice to experience long-term benefits. Find something to be grateful for, let it fill your heart, and bask in that feeling.
PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TIP 3- Focus on one thing (in the moment).
Being mindful of the present moment allows us to let go of negative or difficult emotions from past experiences that weigh us down. Start by bringing awareness to routine activities, such as taking a shower, eating lunch, or walking home. Paying attention to the physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes of these experiences helps you focus. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to what you are doing.
PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TIP 4 – Exercise.
Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which increases your level of serotonin in the brain. Plus, time in nature is a proven stress reducer.
PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TIP 5- Eat a good meal.
What you eat nourishes your whole body, including your brain. Carbohydrates (in moderate amounts) increase serotonin, a chemical that has been shown to have a calming effect on your mood. Protein-rich foods increase norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine, which help keep you alert. And vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that feed every cell of your body, including those that affect mood-regulating brain chemicals. Include foods with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed.) Research shows that these nutrients can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells necessary for cognitive function.
PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TIP 6-Go to bed on time.
A large body of research has shown that sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood. Try to go to bed at a regular time each day, and practice good habits to get better sleep. These include shutting down screens for at least an hour before bed, using your bed only for sleep or relaxing activities, and restricting caffeinated drinks for the morning.
PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TIP 7- Take a break.
In those moments when it all seems like too much, step away, and do anything but whatever was stressing you out until you feel a little better. Sometimes the best thing to do is a simple breathing exercise: Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. For each one, count to four as you inhale, hold it for a count of four, and then exhale for another four. This works wonders almost immediately.