Keywords: Covid-19, Coronavirus, Covid-19 Long-Haulers, Stress, Immune System, Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Stress, ME, Covid Mental Health
The last year and a half was marked with big changes, immense stress, widespread health concerns and an extreme disruption to our routines. Together, apart? The pandemic, and all of the cultural, social and psychological changes which have accompanied it have made building resilience a priority as part of our long-term health plans as we approach the future with the goals of optimal physical and mental health.
Long-Term Risks and Mental Health Outcomes
We now know that Up to 30% of COVID-19 survivors, after infection, struggle with neurological and psychological conditions—conditions like memory loss, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and addiction. These patients, often called “COVID-19 long-haulers,” can feel these effects for months after they have otherwise recovered from the virus itself.
Researchers continue to learn more about how the brain and nervous system can be impacted by the virus, and understand more about how the pandemic’s effects might linger into the future even when actual infection abate. We now understand that long-term neuropsychiatric symptoms from COVID-19 range from headaches, hyposomnia (excessive sleepiness), and hypogeusia (loss of taste) to insomnia, and mood and anxiety disorders. These symptoms are well documented and many of them are common to people who have experienced the pandemic without ever having had COVID. Just having been through the turbulent and unpredictable last 18 months is sufficient to induce long-haul symptoms! The impact of feeling out of control, and being fearful and lonely have widespread and deep impacts upon the nervous system. We really can’t separate these out.
Research suggests there may also be links between COVID-19 and forms of dementia and depression, as the virus can impact overall neurological health. Depression and suicide risk changed throughout the pandemic and suicide rates were up. While the research on pandemic-related suicide is ongoing, data suggests an increase in risk.
The pandemic severely impacted social life and partnerships. Stress, loneliness, and depression weakened many of our immune systems during the pandemic, creating new variables in our physical and mental health that may affect our future relationships. Marriage rates fell, and while statistically, the divorce rate has been low, the severity of divorces and intensity of marriage and other intimate relationships has been substantial.
Mitigate Risk: Develop Your Routine to Prioritize Mental Health
As we move into autumn i think more and more about finding ways to be stronger and healthier, so that i can be resourced enough to help others. there is a lot we can do to increase our resilience and combat the risk factors the pandemic introduced.
To build resilience, I encourage you to...
Set yourself up for a lifetime of cognitive resilience by beginning or resuming a spiritual fitness practice. Not only can these practices help you cope with lingering stress—uncovering joy—but research shows they are an important element of integrative health practice.
Give your immune system a boost with a regular gratitude practice. Help your body and your brain recover with this important habit that studies suggest can lower risk of depression and improve sleep. Bring to mind a scene which you really appreciate and hold that image while breathing into you heart.
Train your brain for neuroplasticity. Try intermittent fasting, exercise, music training and more to combat the pandemic-related tension and strain that, for many of us, had direct impact upon our brains in the form of “negative neuroplasticity.”
Find time to MOVE in fun ways: dancing, yoga, a workout routine, some jumping jacks in the morning—anything that gets you moving! I always recommend a good walk. And for extra fun try dancing to dance music in the morning!
Make all of the habits above a part of a regular, repeating daily routine. Taking control of your schedule is a great way to take control of your physical and mental health, and it allows you to reflect on your power to move into the next months with resilience.
Looking for more simple techniques to help you find your inner resilience as you move forward into what’s next? Take a look at my healing blogs like 10 Strategies For Healing Traumatic Stress on ilenenaomirusk.com
Remember that habits can take a while to change. Ask for support from a coach or a friend. Reward yourself for your successes and remember to have compassion for yourself. This has been a rough time for many!