The Coronavirus Reach: It’s Not Just Physical Illness
The impacts of COVID-19 are real. Yes, there is illness ranging from the mild to the severe, including death. There are economic impacts: just look at the stock market. Then there other changes caused by the virus with impacts large and small: There are cancellations of conferences galore. Travel is being curtailed (particularly cruises). Not everyone can get a refund (this writer included — ask American Airlines). There are educational institutions across the landscape that are being closed or moving online. Hospitals are being stressed. Healthcare workers, politicians and religious leaders are self quarantining.
But this is what is worrying me. We are not paying enough attention to the psychological impact of the virus — the threat of the illness, not only actually getting ill.
The threat of the virus is traumatic for some. There is fear, anxiety, stress. There are worries about employment and quarantine. Seeing people in masks is disturbing for many — adults and children alike. We lose physical touch; we meet remotely; we listen for every sneeze. Social media is abuzz. We see cruise ships being unloaded live — as we watch folks enter a quarantine.
For those who have had other traumas in their lives with illness or isolation or separation, the threats and accomplishing behaviors may trip off trauma symptomology. Old trauma can be re-triggered. For those who worry about consistency and structure and patterns to stay calm, those guard posts are shaking.
Yet, our attention is on physical safety. That matters for sure but psychological well being, lowering the autonomic nervous system response and identifying and ameliorating trauma symptomology cannot and should not be ignored. For real. It is real and yet we are not giving it its just due.
My caution: pay close attention to your psychological well being as well as your physical well-being. You can quarantine your body but your mind can still run loose.
I have a forthcoming book on trauma and its implications within the educational area. It can be pre-ordered at www.tcpress.com/karen-gross. I wish it were out and available now to help. In the meanwhile, blogs will have to do.