Staying positive during all this stress is difficult, yet, like everyone else, I need to focus on maintaining my sense of humor. With the news about the Coronavirus focused on how many victims have expired, I’m flooded with negative images and thoughts of how this could affect me, yet I’ve been through hard times before, and I’ll make it through this difficult time too.
I’ve found that limiting my exposure to the news and all the hype helps. I tune in once a day and listen to the latest reports on what’s happening locally and worldwide, then I stay away from the news. Instead, I’ve been reading books, working on my craft projects, playing music, and taking walks. I avoid other people when I’m walking, and I’m lucky that I’m sheltering at my sister’s home while this is going on. I figured if she or I got sick, we’d be able to care for each other. I didn’t want her to face this alone, or to face it alone myself. It’s nice to have someone to share the burden with!
I’ve been impressed by the good I see coming out of this pandemic. It warms my heart to hear of those who have medical experience that are answering the call for help in New York and are flocking to step in where needed. That to me is the essence of the human spirit! I try to remember that when I hear about the selfishness of students who don’t care if they spread the virus to older people simply because they are young and won’t likely die from it. Perhaps they don’t care if their parents or grandparents are victims? And, perhaps it says something about the youth of today and how morally barren some of them are…but isn’t that true of every time in history and every culture?
Staying positive is hard work, but it’s something we all need to do in these troubled times. There is good coming from all of this, and it reminds me of the old saying, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Perhaps that’s true too.
You certainly don’t have to have PTSD to be anxious over all the implications of COVID-19, the Coronavirus that is currently making its’ rounds throughout the United States and the world. If you turn on the television or your computer, you are flooded with reports of how people are being affected by the virus. Most of the news consists of projections for how serious the outbreak can be. For those who are already anxious, this additional stress can be almost as overwhelming as having the virus itself!
While it is understandable to be concerned about the Coronavirus, immersing yourself in a constant barrage by watching the news all day long only makes things more problematic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the utmost authority in the U.S. about preventing and controlling pandemic outbreaks. Follow their advice and you will reduce your risk considerably. 8
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Properly dispose of used tissues.
- Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, arm, or elbow if you don’t have a tissue.
- Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect objects or surfaces that may have come into contact with germs.
- Make plans for what will happen if someone in the home becomes ill or if quarantine or shelter-in-place measures are ordered.
While it is wise to keep abreast of what is developing with the Coronavirus, do not watch television or follow it on your computer all day long. Remember, most people who get the virus will get through it just fine. Even if you are elderly or your immune system is compromised, it is not a guarantee that you can’t survive the virus. Do not give up hope! Do not give in to fear. We will get through this and we’ll be stronger for it.
Why is it that when we have PTSD, we deny ourselves experiences where we can have fun? I see that in myself all the time. It’s rather sad because all of us deserve some fun in life and I’m no exception. Neither are you.
Depression can lead to inactivity, and feeling anxious about interacting with others. Sometimes we just don’t want to make the time to deal with other people, but isolation doesn’t help us at all. It may help if you think about the activities you used to enjoy and start by trying one or more of them again. Think about some of the things you really used to love doing. Make a list if you can, because when you’re depressed, you may find you have difficulty thinking of what those activities were.
Now plan a time to do one of those activities. Set a firm date because if you wait for a time when you feel like it, it may never happen. Choose the day and time for your activity, and add it to your calendar. Are you finding you are hesitant to schedule activities that involve being with others? That’s not unusual, but try to carry through with the activity anyway. You may find it’s not as painful as you first thought, and the more you interact with others, the easier it may get!
Life has challenges, it’s true, but in order to be balanced, it needs to have some fun too. Allow yourself to find your joy again. It makes life worthwhile, and after all, you deserve it!
If you have PTSD, chances are fairly good that you are also having nightmares. Add a little depression or anxiety in with your PTSD, and it increases your likelihood of having nightmares. Nightmares are difficult to deal with because they increase your fear, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, panic, and screaming or crying in your sleep. Absolutely no fun. But the negative effects of having these nightmares continue even after you wake. PTSD nightmares can result in a higher increase in REM sleep than normal, an increase in night-time awakenings and extended periods of being awake, decreased amounts of deep, restorative sleep, decreased sleep time, and problems functioning the day after due to exhaustion.
The negative effects don’t stop there either. PTSD nightmares keep you in your traumatic “flight or fight” mode of heightened arousal. You may find you avoid going to bed at a reasonable time because you are apprehensive about having more nightmares. PTSD nightmares may even prompt you to turn to using drugs in an attempt to prevent additional nightmares. PTSD nightmares have a negative impact on your quality of life.
Treatment for PTSD nightmares is often an arduous journey, slow and frustrating, but treatment can help. Stress reduction and relaxation techniques can help calm you before sleep. Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) is a cognitive-behavioral therapy where you focus on a different ending for your nightmares, replaying the scenario over and over so eventually the new ending will replace the nightmare ending. There has also been some success using orientation techniques to ground you in the present moment following a nightmare.
There are several other considerations those with PTSD nightmares should keep in mind. Recent research indicates that many people who have PTSD nightmares also have sleep apnea. This research indicates that restricted oxygen intake keeps the brain from its normal attempts to sooth itself, and this makes the nightmares worse. Treating the sleep problems may well resolve the nightmare issue.
Other possible treatments include somatic therapy where you focus on movement and sensations to work through the physical and emotional aspects of the trauma, and EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy.
Whatever form of treatment you try, remember that PTSD nightmares do respond to treatment and life can get better. You deserve a calm, peaceful life. Don’t let PTSD nightmares keep you from it!