Post-Pandemic Trauma and What You May Do About It
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coaching
We just observed (as opposed to "celebrated") the first anniversary since the country went into lockdown due to COVID-19 a year ago. I remember thinking at the time that it wouldn't be so bad. I love staying home. I suspect that for those of us who are introverts, staying home felt a little like a gift--at least first.
But then it dragged out so much longer than I thought it would! I honestly thought that we might start to see some opening up in September or by October, for sure. But that didn't happen. We observed our individual and collective holidays in ways that we could not have imagined when this all started.
And here we are. A year later. Some of us are back to work. Others may never go back.
For some of us, it hasn't been all bad.
For others, it has been catastrophic.
If you have lost a loved one to COVID, I am so, so sorry. If you yourself experienced COVID, I hope you are on the road to recovery. And if you can get your vaccine because of your age or health conditions, please do. I got my first Pfizer shot this week, and it was that experience that told me just how much stress I had been holding on to. My eyes welled with tears with both gratitude and relief. It's like I finally see some light at the end of this interminable tunnel, and for once the lights aren't from a train!
But let me back up. If you have followed me for any period of time, you know that I am a Stress Management Coach. I took courses so I could become certified and proclaim myself an "expert" on stress management.
The reason I did that is that we tend to teach what we most need to learn.
The quote, “We teach best what we most need to learn” is from Richard Bach's book, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. I have found it to be a profound truth in my life. And it has never been more true than it is right now.
I honestly hadn't realized how much stress I was carrying around with me because of COVID until these past few weeks. I got my first hint when I heard the announcement that there would be enough vaccines for every adult in the country who wanted one to have one by the end of May. Tears of relief sprang to my eyes at that single announcement. "Boy," I thought to myself, "where did that come from?"
But I started to realize that I was stressing over not being able to get the vaccine. Most of my friends have gotten theirs already. But I was still waiting for my turn. I had filled out an interest form with the Dept. of Health back in January, but the message was, "We'll let you know when it's your turn, but it might be months."
I realize now that I had started to feel a little anxious about it. I don't know if it was from a fear of missing out on something that everyone else was getting or just the fatigue of not feeling "safe" after such a long time. But when I received the email that I was eligible to get the vaccine and could [finally] make an appointment, I broke down in tears. Happy tears. Tears of relief. Just like the tears I felt in my eyes upon getting the shot a few days later.
I am sure that all of this is stress-related. And it has started to show up in very significant ways in my body that I won't bore you with. My point is this.
We have all been through a major trauma this year.
And we each need to recognize it and figure out the best way to deal with it so we can move on into the new normal--whatever that may wind up looking like.
I am recommending that you do a check-in with yourself. Are you feeling a little more emotionally fragile than usual? Do you cry more easily for no apparent reason? Do you feel irritable or cranky? Do you lose your temper more quickly? Are you feeling overwhelmed some or much of the time?
If you answer "yes" to any of those questions or you can think of other examples that make the point, I urge you to tune into your feelings, figure out the source of them, and then decide the best way to deal with them for you.
For me, as an example, I got a 90-minute hot stone massage yesterday, which was wonderful. I am going to make that a regular thing for the next few months. It is going to become part of my self-care routine. It helped me relax and unwind in a measurable way.
What does it for you? Going for a run? Taking a hot bubble bath? Using essential oils or candles for aromatherapy?
One of my other little self-indulgences is that I buy myself fresh flowers twice a month. I have a beautiful crystal vase that was a gift, and I love to put fresh flowers in it and have them around all the time. They make me happy. What small self-indulgence can you engage in that would make you happy?
I think all of us will have to deal with our post-pandemic trauma at some point. Some of us will be more attuned to it than others. But I believe we will recover from it more quickly if we recognize it, deal with it, and then move on instead of being in denial about it.
What we have been experiencing is a once-in-a-century-event. It has been a big deal for all of us. Please think about my advice and consider what you can do to help yourself recover from the trauma sooner rather than later.
Until next time.
If you are a teacher who has been dealing with teaching on top of COVID, you may benefit from taking a listen to a webinar presentation I recorded a few weeks ago. If you want to learn some specific strategies that can help you manage your stress during the remaining months and weeks of the school year, take a look. You can find it at https://event.webinarjam.com/register/28/97l4mag2.
If you are thinking you've had it with teaching and it's time to look for a new career, you might also enjoy this webinar presentation that I recently recorded for the Alumni Career Center for UVA. You can find it here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/27/37l4qalx.
And if you want to listen to my podcast where I talk alternately about stress management and career transition, check out Teachers in Transition on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you like to listen to your favorite podcasts.