The impact of Covid-19 – is it over when it’s over?
When the pandemic started, I was shielding. For much of the remaining time I have had to limit my interactions and trips a little more than some. I have however been lucky to have family and friends, and my work as a therapist to fill my time so while it has been very difficult it hasn’t been as isolating and lonely as it could have been. I haven’t seen many people in person outside of shouted conversations from the end of a driveway as things were dropped off.
Still, like pretty much everyone, I have had low moments. It has been challenging to be a therapist when we are going through the same issues of isolation, loneliness and exacerbated issues that the rest of the world is right now. It has been our job to unpack all of our stuff, make sure we are ok with it before we help others work through their presenting issues. I am extremely proud of all my fellow therapists in the wonderful job they have done in these trying times.
I recently got the first dose of the vaccine and with the improving weather I felt safe enough to meet a friend in the garden for some socially distanced drinks. The conversation felt long overdue and it had me thinking about how much I have been missing the human contact. Much as I have made the best of things on zoom, there is something about human contact that I have been craving.
My client work also had me thinking about the long-term effects of covid once we return to some level of something closely resembling normality. So that led me to another blog post. I hope those of you that read this consider the long-term effects and that it may harness a little understanding as we cautiously, hopefully, step out into our immediate world again.
I have worked with several clients who have experienced the longer-term effects of covid. Some clients have experienced brain fog, respiratory problems, extreme fatigue and sickness, to name only a few of the symptoms (nhs.uk).
One thing I have noticed is that many people don’t understand that once someone is no longer testing positive for covid that they are not necessarily “back to normal”, in fact, some of the longer-term effects have been more damaging. For some clients it’s been hard to know what their new normal will look like and when that will be. We are still learning how long, long-covid can be.
Much like other long term illnesses people can seem totally normal but brain fog might be affecting their concentration. Lung difficulties might mean that daily tasks that were previously easy are much harder.
Mental Health and covid
Some clients who have experienced Covid, and many of those that haven’t, have experienced medical anxiety. From a long-term illness perspective, it is understandable to experience some fear of getting ill again and for those who haven’t experienced covid, it’s very natural (and sensible) to be cautious even as restrictions begin to lift. One worry is that obsessive behaviour could develop as a result of Covid anxiety (medicalnewstoday.com). Particularly where social distancing has become the way of the world, clients may develop obsessive behaviours and fears around touch.
Many people may need to cautiously return to the idea of touch, be it hand-shakes, hugs or touching doors. Being in busy places may also be difficult for people especially in the beginning of easing restrictions.
For some, isolation has been almost welcome. Some clients fear restrictions being lifted and have fears about busy places now restrictions are lifting (independentage.org).
Expectations of “Normal”
As restrictions lift and a feeling of almost normality some feelings of frustration will increase. Seeing one other family in the garden will increase longing for seeing people indoors and these are normal feelings. It’s important not to set our expectations too high for the long-awaited meetings as things ease off. Patience and taking things slowly will be important.
It’s also important to understand that some people may be slower than others to return to normal, due to the anxieties and issues mentioned above or their level of risk.
It’s hard to tell what the long-term effects of the pandemic will be or if we're really truly over the lockdowns and in the home stretch. For some life might be better than before the pandemic, new ways of working and living have been proven possible. Some families have been able to spend a lot more time together due to the restrictions. For some too life may be harder, they may be trying to return to work after losing their jobs during the pandemic. Some relationships will not have survived. Be considerate of those around you and show compassion for those picking up the pieces after what has been (and still is) a long pandemic.
One thing to remember is that counselling and mental health support is available for whatever the post pandemic world brings. Don’t push problems away, seek support.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/long-term-effects-of-coronavirus-long-covid/ (Accessed: 22/04/2021).
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hypochondria-and-covid-19#management (Accessed: 23/04/2011).
https://www.independentage.org/coronavirus/cs-anxiety (Accessed: 23/04/2011).