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  • Sara

Dealing with Trauma from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

In 2019, the U.S. declared that society was experiencing a public health pandemic. Many people hadn’t ever experienced living in a world where they had to fear a virus that was rapidly spreading and harming loved ones – if not themselves directly. The pandemic truly changed how people lived their daily lives – it changed the world, in general, forever.

Fear of going out in the public, isolation and loneliness, not being able to be with elderly loved ones, and not being able to go into work or attend school took a toll on many people’s mental health. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, everyone had to find a different way to live. They had to figure out what to do with the kids during the day, how to work from home, and how to use teleconferencing to keep in touch. The transition to a world fearful of COVID was difficult, to say the least.

On top of all of that, when COVID died down and new strains plagued society which weren’t as strong, the world had to once again undergo a significant transition. Still leery of being able to protect themselves from the virus, people were, nevertheless, called back to work, kids were back in the classrooms and masks were removed. Before the pandemic, when people caught a cold, it was normal. After it started, one sneeze or could cause people to panic. It might make a difference between being able to stay at work and being sent home. And new mental health terms began to popularize, including pandemic-related PTSD and news addiction. Addiction soared, as did paranoia.

Normally, if someone was constantly testing themselves to see if they were sick, people would think it was ridiculous. However, in the last few years it has become completely normal. While many people are not as concerned about COVID now because of the vaccine and a decrease in cases, some people are still just as worried as they were in the beginning. People continue to go out in masks, gloves, and constantly sanitize their hands. Living in constant fear of getting sick is trauma-inducing and this fear can be internalized for a long time to come. For those who’ve lost loved ones to COVID, this virus is a very real threat and not something to be taken lightly.

Not only has the pandemic caused major shifts to mental health due to fear of the virus and the grief associated with the loss of loved ones, but it has also made many suffer financially. Some have chosen to continue schooling their children at home which adds significantly to their daily to-dos and makes it hard to bring in an income. For those who have been financially impacted, the loss of finances and the lingering effects of this can last a very long time. It’s not easy to find a new job overnight and business owners who’ve suffered are having trouble getting back up and running and finding the help to do so.

COVID has certainly been traumatic in many different ways. Even after gaining some sense of normalcy back, you may still be constantly worried, and you’re certainly not alone. This is a common reaction because trauma induces prolonged feelings of worry and fear. It causes anxiety and depression. And these are not emotions that can be easily changed overnight.

For those who are still isolating themselves, this eliminates a support system of individuals who might be able to help. Although many people went through similar situations and understand how you are feeling, it’s not the same when you can’t share your stories with others.

If you feel you are in a similar situation and are feeling “stuck,” ask yourself the following:

1. What, exactly, am I feeling as a result of the pandemic?

2. How long have these feelings been present?

3. What have I done to try to “shake” these symptoms??

4. Who have I tried to reach out to for support?

5. Am I engaging in self-care? If not, how can I incorporate care into my life?

6. How else might I be able to find support?

7. What was life like before the pandemic and what are some things I can do to feel that way again?

After responding to each of these, take a closer look at your notes (mental or handwritten), and ask yourself whether it’s time to seek professional help. A therapist can work with you to process these feelings and come up with next steps to help you get “unstuck.” You can work together to determine what can be incorporated into your life to help ease any anxiety, depression or trauma-induced negativity. You can also work on incorporating strategies for healing from this trauma and moving forward effectively.

You don’t have to suffer in silence. The pandemic affected the entire world. This means, there are millions of people who feel the exact same way. Know when it’s time to help yourself and know when it’s time to reach out.


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