How to guide patients through anxiety and grief in a post-pandemic reality

How to guide patients through anxiety and grief in a post-pandemic reality

A post-pandemic setting: high unemployment rates, fluctuating economies, continuous increase in cases and deaths still pending. What are basic steps that psychologists can do to help those coping with these unfamiliar times? We provide and explore some guidance points to help you and your patients gain a foothold today and a healthy living tomorrow. No doubt remains about the deleterious effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has incurred thus far.Seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates in the US stand at 10.2%, while in developed European countries, numbers oscillate between 2.7% (Switzerland) and 20.8% (Spain). More than 730,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus have been registered according to the most recent reports from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Levels of stress and anxiety have risen in response to the cloud of uncertainty and isolation surrounding the ever-growing figures of new infection cases. These repercussions will therefore impact individuals not solely economically but psychologically as well. For that reason, to prepare therapists for the mental aftermath of the pandemic, especially in cases of loss and grief, we have gathered a few guidelines to provide additional support and mitigate the unfavorable impact. 

Find reliable sources of information

Between social media, news media, political pundits and health authorities, information regarding COVID-19 is plentiful. The matter at hand is with what criteria do individuals employ to select their information sources. In this case, it is essential to promote the use of official information channels, which is provided by local, state and national governments. You can redirect individuals to official websites and encourage them to contrast the information being provided. Similarly, you are recommended to relay the seriousness of information overload. Some may hold the inaccurate idea that with information 24/7, they will be more prepared to handle the situation. However, too much information can lead to unnecessary anguish. 

Design a plan yet introduce a sense of normality 

As individuals return to regular work spaces and engage with colleagues and friends, the continued concern of possible infection will remain ever present in the minds of some. You can help such lot with actions that lower the likelihood of transmission without compromising relationship connections or general well-being. Examples include:At home:

  • Detailing the household logistics in the case of quarantine or suspected contact. Who will do the shopping? Who will care for other household dependents? Where would those possibly infected need to remain? It is important not to leave any aspect pending. 
  • Respecting individual spaces and remember that time apart could serve as an opportunity to recharge batteries. 
  • For those with children, minimizing the usage of tablets or electronic devices to find moments of bonding/connection time. 

At work:

  • If possible, presenting an agreement or plan that integrates teleworking and designation to avoid interruptions in workflow processes. 
  • In moments of high-stake decisions, expressing the fact that children or dependents still at home (due to continued school closures) may impact workloads and seek alternative plans of action.
  • Continuing to work from home may be overwhelming for some individuals. Establishing routines and time frames that avoid overlaps of home and work life, and foster balance for improved mental sanity. 

Coping With Grief Over COVID-19

Stress that grief is not a linear progression, but rather a constant adaptation to the concomitant emotional-psychological vicissitudes. The duality of death and lack of closure in this pandemic has ushered in a tide of suffering and grief for numerous individuals. Many people have lost a loved one to COVID-19. In most cases, many of those same people did not even have the chance to say goodbye properly. Stringent hospital protocols prevented relatives or friends from visiting the patient’s room.  In response, as a therapist, you can take advantage of multiple sessions to lead patients amid the whirlpool of emotions to a place where the loss of a relative or friend is not anchored to the past or forgotten. Rather, the loss undergoes a transfiguration and helps pave a new yet promising path, by which life may continue forward. In sessions, it is therefore recommended to address some of the following topics:

  • Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet.
  • Attempting to regulate sleep timetables to mitigate the effects of insomnia. 
  • Indulging oneself for brief moments to participate in activities that divert attention from grief and bring relief to repetitive thoughts. You should advise patients to avoid programs or websites that relate to COVID-19. 
  • Upholding daily routines as best as possible, including taking breaks. In some cases, individuals may want to “keep busy” to avoid confronting deeper emotions.
  • Avoiding major decisions for the time being, as emotions are high and the ability to reason is weaker than normal. 
  • Avoiding falling into an abyss of questions that provide no resolutions or guidance. 
  • Staying calm when spells of sadness arise and allowing such episodes to be followed by a push towards an overall better well-being.

In the post-pandemic world, fear, anxiety and grief will run high. The emotions are proportional in response to an unprecedented situation. However, these emotions do not need to become a handicap to the lives of individuals. Taking actions like those mentioned above, coupled with online therapy sessions to minimize risk of transmission, can lead those most suffering to a state of relief and with hope, closure. If you are interested in learning more about online therapy sessions and how they maintain optimal care to patients, please contact us to set up demo sessions.


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