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What wellbeing challenges are caused by COVID-19?

This pandemic can be physically and mentally exhausting due to the competing demands that it places on our bodies and minds

For a lot of people, things that help us thrive are being threatened and many are also experiencing threats to things that help us survive.

Some of us have already suffered losses as a result of COVID-19. From the loss of our final school year, a relationship, employment, and health, to the actual loss of loved ones.

We are therefore collectively experiencing the fear of further losses. This can take the form of a fear of financial survival, as we try to keep meaningful employment alive. Or we may be fearful about our relationships surviving — and many of us are fearful around survival itself.

Whether it is COVID-19 or a raft of other physical and psychological conditions, the burden on global healthcare systems at the moment means that staying well is far from a certainty. This experience of ongoing fear can become traumatic.

Wellbeing challenges

In this transcript of a clip from Dr. Jo Stubley, Head of the Tavistock Trauma Service, she discusses what makes the current situation with COVID-19 particularly distressing from a trauma perspective.

This pandemic can be physically and mentally exhausting due to the competing demands that it places on our bodies and minds:

  • What we want to do when faced with a loss is slow down, mourn, and re-group
  • What the body does when faced with a threat is speed up, act, stay vigilant, and look out for danger
  • When we can neither remove a threat nor mourn, what we seek is security and reliability in routines and relationships

We are thus faced with multiple opposing challenges to our wellbeing.

Fight-flight response

In a different clip, Dr. Stubley explains that our responses to fear and threat involve both the mind and body, and so making divisions between the two can be unhelpful. Fluctuations in attention, mood, energy, or sleep difficulties are far from being “all in our head”.

What we commonly see in response to threats is something called the fight-or-flight response. Download a transcript of Jo Stubley discussing Fight or Flight here.

© Maudsley Learning © Tavistock & Portman NHS FT
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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