Long COVID Self-Management - Adjusting to Change and/or Processing Loss
Suggested Ways to Help Deal with Loss
Assess What has Changed and/or Been Lost
What has changed for you due to COVID-19? Perhaps you are experiencing shortness of breath or fatigue that is limiting your ability to work, go to school, engage in activities (virtual or otherwise) with friends and family, and/or complete day-to-day activities, such as cooking or self-care. Perhaps you have been feeling more afraid or feeling low as you became very aware that not as much is in our control as previously thought. Maybe you lost time with a loved one because you were in hospital. There are many ways COVID-19 may have impacted you, and it is important to take time to reflect on these changes and how they make you feel.
After illness, the degree or timeline for recovery can be uncertain. It could be useful to practice dealing with uncertainty.
Work Through Feelings
Most People Experience a Range of Feelings
These feelings may or may not feel normal to you, and it is expected to have a range of emotions after illness and/or loss and during periods of change. It is important to notice the intensity of the experience as it may or may not be normal to you. You may feel anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, and anxiety, among other things. At other times, you may feel numb or as though the loss isn’t real. Grieving is a process unique to everyone. It does not look one set way. Feelings may fluctuate over time. It may be easier to grieve some things that were lost compared to others.
Try Not to Avoid Your Feelings and Identify Barriers to Working Through Your Feelings
Sometimes people want to avoid feelings because they are uncomfortable or they fear the emotion will be overwhelming. Or perhaps they were taught that “emotions are a sign of weakness” and we should “just move forward”. They may try to distract themselves with activities or unhealthy habits (e.g., drinking, over spending, overuse of social media). Although it can be uncomfortable, it is helpful to identify and process your feelings. Avoiding them can actually make them feel even bigger!
Please keep in mind that healthy distractions are important strategies to use if emotions become overwhelming (e.g. walking, reading, talking to a friend, listening to music, spending time with pets, etc.).
Name it to Tame it
The act of naming your feelings forces the emotional part of your brain to calm down. When we put our emotional experience into words, it helps to lessen the intensity of the emotions and make us feel more in control of our experiences.
Practice Tolerating Your Feelings
Imagine diving into a “lake” of your feelings. It probably seems pretty frightening and overwhelming! You can gradually practice “wading” into your feelings. As you practice, you’ll begin to feel more capable of managing strong emotions.
Talk with Friends and Others You Trust
Some people may have trouble understanding what you are going through or may feel uncomfortable with grief. Well-meaning people may say things like, “Just focus on the positive” or “Pull yourself together.” Try to give yourself permission to take the time you need and express your grief to a compassionate and safe person.
Connecting with Your Community
Community looks different for everyone. It might be getting together with friends, going to your regular place of worship, having a family supper, or many other examples. The important thing is to reach out to your social network and get back to participating in social connection.
Show Kindness and Compassion to Yourself
Often, we can be our own harshest critics, especially during difficult times. Have you said to yourself, “Get over it”, “You can’t deal with anything”, “You shouldn’t feel this way”?
- If so, think about whether you would say such things to a loved one going through a similar experience. What would you say to them?
- Ask yourself what you need in the moment to feel well
- Say something caring to yourself.
- Try a caring gesture.
- Give yourself permission to have a bad day
Find Ways to Adapt to Your New Reality (Temporary or Otherwise)
For some people, COVID-19 may have impacted your day-to-day functioning in a way that won’t ever go back to how it was before. For others, you may still have hope that things will improve. We cannot know what the future holds, but we can adapt to our current circumstances. Regardless of what things will look like in the future, it is important to focus on what you can do in the present moment to make the most of it.
- Focus on what you can do and draw on your strengths.
- Experiment with new ways of doing things.
- Consider your values. What brings meaning to your life? What is important to you? Think about why is it important to you to do the things that you used to do? What was it about those activities that you enjoyed most? Understanding what matters to you can help you to find alternate ways of getting it.
- For example: Let’s say that you are unable to engage in your favorite activity, basketball, due to your level of fatigue. This is a big loss – it made you happy and made you feel good about yourself. In thinking about why basketball is so important to you, you identify that you liked meeting up with your friends at the court. In thinking about why you liked meeting your friends, you realize that the best part is laughing and joking around over a meal after the game. You realize that you value your social relationships. Although too fatigued to play basketball, you may find you are still able to go out for lunch or play a card game with friends over a video platform. This exercise helps to identify new ways or alternate routes to engaging in activities that are meaningful to you.
- Try pacing. Learn more about pacing your activities by visiting the Fatigue Management page.