5 Tips for Coping With the Trauma of a Pandemic

Navigating the mental health impact of trauma can be incredibly draining. You might feel fine one moment but overwhelmed with flashbacks and traumatic memories the next.

Psychological trauma occurs when extreme stress overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. Sometimes, people can bounce back from a traumatic experience. Other times, a traumatic event can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), long-term emotional trauma, or other mental health challenges.

No matter what you’re experiencing, it’s important to remember that recovering from traumatic stress isn’t a linear process, and there’s no set timeline for healing.

Your trauma symptoms might feel more or less intense, and they might come and go—and that’s completely normal. Whether you’re living with PTSD or navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic, here are some tips to help you heal.

Coping With the Trauma of a Pandemic

1. Stick to a daily routine.

Even if you’ve been isolated at home, sticking to a daily schedule can help your days feel as “normal” as possible during the pandemic.

Start each day with a to-do list to take care of your mental health. Write down a few things you want to accomplish, keep a journal of your feelings, and keep a symptom log if you’re experiencing any trauma symptoms. When the symptoms of trauma feel overwhelming, your tracking systems can help you take a proactive approach—whether that involves going for a walk, texting a friend, or reaching out to your therapist.

2. Take care of yourself.

Don’t forget to check in with yourself each day. Even if you’re isolating with your spouse and children, carving time out of your schedule for self-care can help you relax, build resilience, and enjoy your own company. Some simple self-care ideas include:

  • Going for a walk. Stretching your legs can help stretch your mind. If you tend to worry while walking, consider using a meditation app to keep your mind centered. Walking near nature can help keep you grounded, reminding you there’s a bigger world out there than what’s causing you stress.
  • Eating a balanced diet. It’s easier to handle complex emotional responses when your body feels good. Eating a balanced diet can give you the energy and strength needed to cope with stressors and unexpected situations.
  • Taking a creative break. Instead of mindlessly watching TV, try writing, drawing, singing, or cooking to give your brain a much-needed break in a way that doesn’t invite stress.

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3. Surround yourself with loving relationships.

After a traumatic experience, it might be tempting to pull away from others. However, isolation can take a significant toll on your mental well-being, contributing to feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and sadness.

Surrounding yourself with close friends and family members can help you heal and avoid spending too much time alone. You don’t have to talk about your traumatic experience if you don’t feel comfortable, but social support can have wide-ranging benefits—from boosting immunity to building resilience.

If you’re having trouble reaching out, try making a list of the people who lift you up and make you feel good about yourself. Then, schedule a conversation, a video call, or some time together.

4. Join a support group.

Even if you’re not living with PTSD, support groups can be a valuable component of your recovery process. Peer support provides a sense of connection, safety, and comfort, creating a supportive environment to navigate past trauma with other trauma survivors.

Joining a support group can also show you that recovery is possible, since some trauma survivors may be further along in their recovery process. In PTSD and substance use disorder support groups, for example, people come together to share stories, ask questions, and support other group members.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers several support group resources and education programs for individuals with mental disorders. Although support groups can be beneficial, remember that they’re not the same as therapy.

5. Reach out for professional help.

When you’re ready to start the healing process, professional help can make all the difference. Whether you’re struggling with substance abuse or processing childhood trauma, it’s important to find a trauma therapist or psychologist you feel comfortable with.

To find the right trauma therapist, reach out to a mental health provider through the Therapy Group of DC. Whether you’re navigating the long-term effects of traumatic stress or trying to understand your triggers, we’re here to help. One of our experienced mental health professionals will help you build resilience and live a productive, fulfilling life.

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