Since the pandemic, people around the world have been experiencing grief, loneliness, and hopelessness. In return, there has been a spike in the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Thus, we can conclude that the impacts of COVID on humans go beyond the physical symptoms. Instead, the pandemic has caused a great deal of emotional and mental stress on people and in this article, the team at Calm Rehab take a look at some of the causes.

What is COVID stress syndrome? 

According to a 2021 Australian study conducted by Flinders University, people are experiencing severe traumatic stress symptoms as a result of the ongoing worldwide pandemic. Furthermore, it has aggravated various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, psychosocial dysfunction, and pre-existing PTSD.

The COVID stress syndrome is a complicated condition characterised by numerous forms of worry, checking and reassurance-seeking, re-experiencing symptoms, and other related behaviours like excessive crowd avoidance and panic buying.

The components of the COVID stress syndrome: 

1. Danger and contamination fear: Fear is a natural human response to danger. It directs our decisions and        actions to save us from putting our health and lives at risk. The coronavirus outbreak has heightened fears and concerns. Furthermore, fear shows itself through unnecessary self-isolation, crowd avoidance, panic purchasing, and other excessive behaviours.

2. Socioeconomic concerns: The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has not only brought an unparalleled health catastrophe but has also caused severe economic downturns throughout the world. Since the global economy is heavily linked and interdependent via global supply networks, COVID-19 caused irreversible damage. Furthermore, it quickly resulted in catastrophic socioeconomic consequences such as income loss, company disruption, and health issues.

Specifically, during the COVID-19 epidemic, unemployment reached unprecedented highs. In fact, it was said to have surpassed those of the Great Depression. These employment and income losses, however, were not felt equitably. Several studies have found that certain ethnic and age groups have experienced greater financial challenges.

Meanwhile, the virus imposed long-term consequences for companies. Several businesses laid off staff and halted critical projects and plans. Due to financial constraints, several firms intended to seek funding. Additionally, the adverse effects vary across the different industries. Reports on retail, entertainment, and food businesses have implicated job losses of more than 50%. Finance, professional services, and real estate-related firms, on the other hand, faced less impact since these industries were better prepared to transition to remote production.

3. Xenophobia: Fear and uncertainty are natural in the middle of a pandemic, but they should not be used to excuse xenophobia and racism. Xenophobia is the fear and loathing of outsiders or foreigners in general. Furthermore, racist and xenophobic events have been common in the aftermath of the pandemic. They include verbal and physical attacks, social isolation, denial of access to products and services, commercial boycotts, discriminatory mobility restrictions and quarantine regulations, and other forms of harassment.

4. Traumatic stress: People have experienced various emotional challenges due to the pandemic. Furthermore, people who are experiencing severe stress are those who lost a family member as a result of COVID, those who have learned of the death or danger of death of a family member or friend, and those who have been exposed to unpleasant and unspeakable facts. This caused people to have nightmares, changed behaviour, and other life-changing shifts.

5. Compulsive checking and reassurance-seeking: Behaviours associated with this include panic purchasing and the usage of personal protection equipment. Panic purchasing caused by a fear of running out of goods is fueled by emotions and social factors, and it provides people with a sense of control over the situation. During natural catastrophes and health crises, people may exhibit these unusual behaviours to cope with the many anxieties and uncertainties that follow the current situation. During COVID, individuals have also been storing up on protective gear such as masks, gloves, face shields, gowns, and more.

How to deal with COVID stress syndrome: 

Now that we’ve identified the many sources of stress brought on by the pandemic, here are some strategies to assist you to cope:

1. Be more gentle with yourself: High-stress situations may bring out the best and worst in individuals. While some argue that now is a good time to focus on yourself and become the best version of yourself, it is fine if you are moving at a slower rate than others. Furthermore, remember that it is okay to have breaks and take a deep breath. Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you want to spend the day watching your favourite movie and playing with your pet.

2. Do things you love: Setting time in your busy schedule to do fun activities will help you relieve stress, improve your mood, and broaden your social network. Taking some time to do things you are deeply passionate about will help you briefly forget your obligations, stay present, and perform self-reflection.

3. Spend some time outside: Nature will elicit a wide range of good feelings, including tranquillity, joy, and creativity. Not only that but going out to get some fresh air can also help you with your overall focus. The nature connection is also related to reduced levels of poor mental health, namely lower levels of sadness and anxiety.

4. Consume healthier meals: A nutritious, well-balanced diet can improve your ability to think clearly and feel more awake. It also helps with concentration and attention span. 

5. An insufficient diet, on the other hand, can cause tiredness and poor decision-making.

6. Prioritise good sleep: Finally, sleeping allows us to recover from both mental and physical fatigue. Sleep and health are inextricably linked; bad sleep increases the likelihood of poor health, and poor health makes it more difficult to sleep. Furthermore, fixing your sleeping schedule and making sure you have enough rest is one big step to reducing stress during these trying times.

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