Managing emotions and anxiety during tumultuous time
Over the past several months, we have collectively gone through unprecedented times that none of us were prepared to handle. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, isolation, loss of employment, finances and for many, loved ones as well, it has taken a toll on our mental health. Add to that the recent social unrest and protests nationwide over systemic racism and police brutality, emotions are at an all-time high.
Being forced to constantly manage anger, fear or anxiety forces us to seek out ways to cope. There is a level of trauma that develops and, as a result, there are coping behaviors that we turn to, constructive or damaging. There could be long-term consequences to the stress, anxiety, and fear that has overwhelmed us and, left unaddressed, that trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While many people associate PTSD with the effects of war, it’s a chronic psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. According to experts, the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar effect even for those who aren’t clinically diagnosed with PTSD. There may be ongoing intense emotional reactions that can last after the crisis ends. Those who struggle with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, or who have a prior history of trauma, may be at increased risk of more ongoing distress.
How you handle stress makes a difference in how you ultimately cope. It’s normal to have an intense emotional response to a significant threat or traumatic incident like a pandemic, but those symptoms tend to naturally recover over time.
Time for a mental wellness check
If you’re experiencing symptoms that are interfering with daily life such as nightmares, trouble sleeping or concentrating, irritability or avoidance that last for more than a month, its recommended to seek help from a therapist or mental health provider. Here’s the silver lining. The overwhelming majority of people who endure a life-threatening event recover on their own and never meet the criteria for PTSD. The feelings of hopelessness eventually will pass, especially if you put effort into processing those emotions.
That begins with acknowledging and taking inventory of your feelings, then finding a healthy outlet to express and process them. It is instinctive to want to avoid negative emotions but suppressing or pushing them away makes matters worse. How you handle stress makes a difference in how you ultimately cope. You can create positive habits and reduce response patterns that predict PTSD, in which a terrifying event leads to symptoms such as disturbing flashbacks and severe anxiety. Unfortunately, we can’t will away sadness and fear. Living through such emotions without exacerbating your pain and suffering takes skill.
Seek out long term coping methods that are good for the mind and body. This is a time for our innate resilience and practicing self-care because of the major issues we are dealing with are not going away soon. Unplug from the constant news cycle which can increase anxiety.
Remember that we are part of a global community and are presently going through the same thing at the same time. That’s a rare occurrence and through that perceived social support, comes the feeling of getting through this together. Stay connected with friends and family. Talk about your feelings, because likely, those close to you are experiencing the same. Confide in others about what you are experiencing and ask others to share in return. Feeling connected protects against PTSD.
We can’t control much of what happens around and to us. Boost greater control by focusing on what matters most to you, things you value, will give you a greater sense of purpose and help to increase your physical and mental wellness.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 35 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.