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How Human Resilience Withers During COVID-19, And What You Can do About it

November 09, 2020

The tenacity of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no end to the upheaval and change it’s caused in our lives, undermines human resilience as it creates ongoing stress and anxiety for many people.

Art Guerra, director of residential and adult outpatient services at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, said he sees the effect the pandemic is having on local people every day. His experience underscores the results of an American Psychological Association survey that found nearly 8 in 10 adults are sagging under the stress of the pandemic.

“We have been much busier, and seeing not only new folks who hadn’t presented with mental illness or anxiety or depression problems before, but the current population we are treating is an increased number of people having an increased need with their symptoms worsening,” Guerra said.

If the pandemic was more time-limited, he said human resilience could carry people through. This, however, is not the case with COVID-19.

“I’m worried and I think many professionals are worried that COVID is going to be with us for a while and this ongoing stress that happened earlier this year and is now continuing may be a lot for people who are experiencing mood changes or anxiety at this time,” Guerra said.

Many people might be experiencing severe stress and anxiety for the first time and not recognize the telling symptoms, he added, suggesting that people reach out for help if they experience:

  • Irritability.
  • Trouble eating or sleeping.
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • Low-energy levels.

“The issue around folks who might have anxiety or depression and never experienced that before and they are just not sure what’s going on. And they might be in disbelief,” Guerra said.

Besides tuning in to such changes in yourself, he urged people to look for signs in your loved ones.

“When you hear family members and friends saying, ‘Are you OK? Is something wrong?’” Guerra said. “If you’re hearing that in several different spheres of your life, you may have to reflect and think ‘Do I need to get some support or help?’”

He suggested:

  • Reaching out to your primary care physician.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  • Sticking to a sleep routine.
  • Heading outside for fresh air when possible.
  • Understanding when to take a break from the news and social media.
  • Keeping open lines of communication with family and friends.
  • Assessing what you can control and distancing yourself from what you cannot.

“If those factors fail and people still have ongoing depressive (or) anxiety symptoms, then seek some kind of mental health service,” Guerra said.

For more information or help, call the Hartford HealthCare Community Care Center at 833.621.0600.