Living through a pandemic is causing stress, anxiety, fear, and grief for many. But can living through a pandemic actually be trauma?
Depending on a person’s overall mental health and past experiences, yes, living through a pandemic can be a trauma. While many people are likely to adjust and bounce back fairly quickly from this experience, others may struggle to cope with the emotions caused by COVID-19, both during and after the pandemic.
Who is Most at Risk?
While anyone can be traumatized by living through a pandemic, there are some groups that are more at risk than others. These include:
Those who have lost a loved one. Whether to COVID-19 or some other cause, losing a close friend or family member during a time of social distancing can be traumatic. Those who weren’t able to give the level of in-person care they wanted, or who couldn’t say goodbye, are more likely to deal with mental health repercussions such as PTSD after the pandemic.
Those diagnosed with COVID-19. Survivors of this virus have been faced with their own mortality: afraid for their lives and worried about what surviving family members would do without them. Intense fears like this can be hard to recover from, even when the danger has passed.
Those impacted economically. Being able to provide the necessities of life for yourself and your family is important to your mental well-being. Those who were hardest hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic may have a harder time than others feeling secure and stable after the worst of the crisis is over.
Essential workers. Those who have lost jobs may view essential workers as fortunate, but there are two sides to the story. Healthcare workers and others who work closely with those who are ill can experience trauma from losing patients. Essential workers in any field may have experienced increased job pressure on top of the fear of being exposed to the virus on a daily basis. High-pressure experiences like these can also be a form of trauma.
How Can I Minimize the Traumatic Effects of Living Through a Pandemic?
So, if living through a pandemic can be a trauma, how can you protect yourself? There are steps you can take now to minimize the traumatic effects of living through a pandemic, including:
- Practice self-care. When it comes to your mental health, it’s important to be proactive. Don’t wait until things have calmed down to take time for yourself. Instead, practice self-care every day to build your resiliency.
- Stay connected. Knowing others are in this with you and being able to support each other in difficult times can help to stave off feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Limit your news intake. Yes, you want to stay informed, but too much news can cause a downward spiral in your emotions. Pick a time and a reliable news source, and once you’ve gotten the facts give your brain a chance to rest.
- Seek professional help. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, and counseling or therapy can be a powerful tool—both to build resiliency against trauma and to recover from it.
Yes, living through a pandemic can be a trauma, and some are more at risk than others. But a pandemic is a temporary situation. Know that it will end, and that in the meantime, there are things you can do to take care of your mental health and protect yourself against the traumatic effects of uncertain times.