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Trauma in Covid-19

Do you find yourself avoiding subjects you enjoyed or even worse, you’ve completely lost interest in learning? Are you having moments of adrenaline burst when you’re just sitting around doing nothing? What about laughing at something serious or feeling really sad at something funny? Those deadlines that came at the end of the semester, did you find yourself wanting to throw your hands up and ignore them completely? This is how our responses can be when we’ve been exposed to a traumatic event. We are all collectively experiencing a worldwide traumatic event from Covid-19 in varying degrees.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When something traumatic occurs, depending on several risk factors and intensity, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD can develop. The symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event in nightmares, avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma, having negative changes in your beliefs, and feeling keyed up. Trauma can present as willful disobedience, extreme distrust, difficulty managing friendships, and extreme or unmatched emotions. We can all see how this is playing out across social media in regards to people’s responses to Covid-19: extreme distrust, rampant conspiracy theories, or even denial of the seriousness of our situation.

Trauma Affects the Brain

Trauma changes the brain. When someone experiences a scary event, their brain is flooded with stress hormones to keep them safe. For example, when triggered your brain will take over your body with the stress hormones that will signal you to either fight, flight, or freeze. This is a natural response that our brain and body do to keep us alive and safe. For COVID-19 this probably looks like protesting at the state capital (fighting), an obsessive hoarding of toilet paper (flight), or being paralyzed in fear (freeze).

The key is to settle your brain is by disarming the fear. There are some practical strategies you can use to bring yourself a sense of control and relief. How do we do that? 

Take Control

  • Nurture Relationships: First and foremost; positive, healthy, consistent relationships are key! Stay connected with people you care about. Take advantage of the technology we have. Facetime, Zoom, Google Hang, send Tik Tok challenges or play video games with your friends. 
  • Create safe spaces: Have an oasis in your home. Now, this may simply mean making your bed and putting away your laundry. Consider what you need in your space to feel safe and comfortable. Do that. 
  • Make healthy choices: Be intentional about what you’re putting in your body. Staying hydrated and fueled will tell your brain you’re safe. Keep a water bottle with you with cold refreshing water and every couple of hours have a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, a protein bar, or trail mix. (Coke and Hot Taakis do not count). Get moving, especially when the sun is out. It’s still safe to go for a walk as long as you’re maintaining 6 feet distance from others.
  • Regulate your thoughts: Practice deep breathing; so deep that your tummy expands and you can feel the air in the bottom of your lungs. Use your imagination to visualize a place you’d rather be like dancing at a Second Line. Take notice of the things around you that you can see, feel, hear, smell, and taste.

Most importantly, if your experience of COVID-19 is unbearable and you need more support, reach out! The Louisiana Department of Health has launched a mental health hotline, “Keeping Calm Through COVID,” at 1-866-310-7977. It is open 24/7.

Need more coping strategies? Check out our blog Minding Your Mental Health during Covid-19.

How We’re Coping During Social Distancing.

We value caring.

At College Beyond caring is one of our core values. We are genuinely concerned about each others’ well-being. During social distancing, we make an extra effort to make sure both our staff and students are mentally and physically well. Here’s a look at how College Beyond is practicing mindfulness and minding our mental health during Covid-19.

Coping During Covid

Dr. Erin Wheeler, Executive Director 

“I make sure to spend time outside like going for a walk or working outdoors.  I limit my exposure to social media and news.  I make sure I am listening to positive motivational videos or podcasts. I am also making efforts to create boundaries for work and life.”

Erica Martinez, Program Director

“I take time to focus on the things I can control, like spending time with my family and checking in on my neighbors and try let go of the things I can’t control. I’m also being more intentional about buying local fruit and vegetables to support local businesses and to have healthy options at home.”

Michelle Anaba, AmeriCorps Vista Member- Program Associate

“I make sure to get at least a  little bit of sun every day. Getting fresh air daily makes a noticeable difference when situations are stressful. It really helps to clear my mind and put things into perspective. I have also found that limiting news and social media helps to stop the constant barrage of negative information. I stay informed, but I don’t constantly keep up with all the details surrounding Covid-19. Lastly, I set a routine to keep myself from being overwhelmed. This helps me to set realistic goals, and keep track of everything I need to accomplish. Setting a routine also helps me to make time for breaks and create a work/life balance.”

Sarah Payne, Director of Strategy 

“I’m trying to make time to connect with loved ones and to move my body. I also take some time every day to check in with myself, asking: What feelings are coming up for me? What does this feeling want for me? What does it need? When I do this, I’m trying to just allow my feelings to happen, recognizing that they will change, like the weather. I’m trying to be friendly toward them, regardless of how they show up.”

Here’s more tips on how to protect your mental wellness during Covid-19.

Minding Your Mental Wellness During Covid-19

Mental Wellness and Social Distancing

Covid-19 has rapidly brought about many changes to our lifestyle.  There’s a great deal of concern for our physical health.  We are paying more attention to our bodies as we monitor signs of illness.  We are washing our hands, wearing masks, and donning gloves. As much as we are caring and protecting our physical bodies, we must be as concerned for our mental wellness.  

The Covid-19 pandemic is something that we have never experienced in our lifetime.  The unknown triggers a variety of emotions. Social distancing has disrupted our lives in several ways and disturbance to our norm brings about fear, insecurity, and loneliness.  The flood of unprocessed emotions can have a significant effect on our mental health.  One of the keys to coping during the pandemic is mental wellness. Here are some tips on how to manage your well-being during Covid-19. 

Tips for Coping During Covid-19
  1. Unplug from reality. You can’t scroll past a post on social media and or flip through the channels on TV without seeing something about Covid-19.  Constant exposure to the media can significantly affect our mood without us realizing it. Set limits on the amount of time you spend on social media. Set a time to unplug from electronic devices altogether. 
  2. Get some sun.  Spending time outdoors not only helps get a change of scenery, but it can also help improve your mood.  Gaining exposure to sunlight can also help increase your levels of Vitamin D which guards against depression and boosts energy levels. 
  3. Exercise. Those extra steps we take walking to our cars, throughout campus, or from meeting to meeting add up.  Since social distancing, those steps are reduced since we are limited to the areas of our home.  Exercising helps to increase mobility and energy.  The endorphins produced by exercising improves your mood and alleviates stress and anxiety. 
  4. Give yourself the freedom to feel. We’ve all been affected by Covid-19. Permit yourself to feel the way you feel. Most importantly permit yourself to feel happy. Take time to process your thoughts and express your emotions.  Find a way to balance being empathetic to others while finding your joy. 
  5. Be kind to yourself. You may feel as though you have to prove yourself in terms of productivity.  Social distancing measures can rob you of your energy and your desire to function as normal. Give yourself some grace.  Just because it seems that you should have more time and energy to do more, does not mean that you do. Pace yourself and allow a little extra time to complete things. Take mental breaks when needed. Set aside time for self-care and relaxation.  Use the time normally spent commuting or participating in extracurricular activities to do things that make you happy that you wouldn’t normally have time for. 
  6. Seek counseling.  One of the benefits of social distancing is that counseling is more accessible. Mental health providers are now able to provide counseling via phone or video. Many health insurance providers are also waiving co-pays for behavioral health services during social distancing measures.  If you do not have insurance there are options to access free or affordable counseling. Psychology Today can help you find a local qualified therapist. 

As the pace of lives has slowed, we have an opportunity to spend more time reflecting and becoming more aware of ourselves. Being in tune with our emotions and mental health is a great place to begin.

At College Beyond, we value mindfulness and mental health. Take a look at how each of us is coping during the pandemic.