Your Pandemic Trauma

You have been traumatized by COVID-19. For the last two years, you have experienced a constant overwhelming threat. Everyone on the planet has been affected. How has it affected you?

It’s been like a long-term natural disaster. Imagine the chronic stress of living in a hurricane for two years. And we can’t make sense of it. We’re hardwired to make meaning and there isn’t one. So, what do we do? We make up our own story that makes sense to us. The problem is the story isn’t true. Many people make up the story that they haven’t been affected. But that’s a delusion.

What story have you told yourself? What is your reality? The reality is that you have been affected and you’ve been traumatized. And that trauma is currently unresolved.

Here in the U.S., during the pandemic, our collective mental health has taken a nosedive.

  • Overdose deaths are at an all-time high, mostly from opioids
  • Hospital admissions for eating disorders have doubled.
  • Anxiety and depression are 4x higher
  • Intimate Partner Violence has increased significantly
  • Prescription drug usage has skyrocketed

We know that things aren’t going back to the way they were. We are currently stuck between what is and what is to come. And the future is uncertain.

We’re suffering grief and loss. What have you lost? Some losses are obvious: a loved one, a relationship, a career, money, time. Some losses are not so obvious: your self, hope, optimism, faith, family, community.

So, what can you do? Self-care is paramount. There are many ways to take care of yourself. How you do it is not as important as doing it consistently. One thing done consistently is better than doing five things sporadically.

The basics are always important, not just in a pandemic. It may sound trite but clean eating, quality sleep, and moderate exercise are the foundations of wellness.

Beyond that, take your pick of things that bring you contentment, peace, and satisfaction. Stay connected with friends and family. Find time to play. Search for a laugh. Practice focusing on your breathing. Let your mind wander – give it some time off.

Resilience is the answer. What is resilience? In this context, it is your ability to effectively cope with, adjust to and recover from trauma. It is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to trauma and the ability to even rise above it.

Resilience reflects your ability to keep a stable balance of psychological and physical functioning, even in the face of highly stressful traumatic events.

Resilience is your ability to bounce back, beat the odds, transform your trauma into something positive and adapt to whatever life sends you. Here’s a menu of tactics to promote resilience:

  • Find your opportunity? In every adversity there is opportunity. But you must look for it. It won’t just come to you on its own.
  • Make friends with change. You can’t stop it so you might as well get to know it better.
  • Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Trust yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
  • Choose kindness. That can be hard in the face of bad behavior. If you can’t be kind, at least don’t respond with bad behavior of your own.
  • Live your values. What are your values? Many people have no idea. Finding yours and living them will make you feel much better.
  • Cultivate gratitude. More and more research tells us that being grateful, being thankful, is a key element of well-being.
  • Practice self-compassion. This is being kind to yourself, not judging yourself and practicing mindfulness.
  • Cultivate forgiveness and lighten the weight of resentment, anger and grievance.
  • Take in the good. We must override the inherent negative bias in our brains. That means when something good happens you must stop and let it soak in.
  • Manage your emotions so they don’t control you. Cultivate equanimity.
  • Find meaning and purpose to give alignment with your values, needs and behaviors.
  • Keep your sense of humor. A good laugh will always make you feel better.
  • See reality as it is. See things as they are, not how you want them to be or how you think they should be.
  • Shift from doing to being. Ditch your to do list and allow yourself to just be.
  • Cultivate mindfulness. Live in the present moment without judgement.

This guidance is intended to relate specifically to the pandemic. But the suggestions apply to any struggle or difficulty.

To Trauma and PTSD Treatment