Long COVID: Help With Stress

Long COVID and Stress

The pandemic has been very stressful for everyone - even more so for you and millions of others with COVID-19 and long COVID. 

You may be facing many different kinds of challenges including physical (e.g. symptoms, self-care, recovery, etc.); emotional (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression, etc.); social (e.g. home life, family, friends, community, etc); financial (e.g. medical bills, employment, etc.); and others. Dealing with the stress in the moment can help.

Dealing with Stress

The stress may feel overwhelming at times. It will take time, patience, care, and support to move forward. To help you manage day-to-day or even moment-to-moment, you can try the following:

  • Stay present. Focus on what you’re doing right now

  • Don’t forget to breathe - gently and slowly. It helps to lessen stress and anxiety

  • Be aware of any negative feelings and thoughts. They are part of stress; practice reframing and refocusing. Stay true to yourself and the person you are

  • Use gratitude. Stop and think about what makes you grateful

  • Take care of yourself. To heal, you must be kind to yourself

  • Ask for and accept help. It may be with cooking, cleaning, organizing, or errands, or you may need someone to listen and support you

  • Get support from others. Talk with your coach, your doctor, or a counselor.

Next is a specific exercise that can help you deal with stress and worry. It’s called Notice and Reconnect (It is based on Doing what matters in times of stress: an illustrated guide. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO).

Notice and Reconnect Exercise

Notice and Reconnect is an exercise to help you cope with stress and worry. It helps you notice, and then set aside, difficult thoughts and feelings and reconnect to the present. When you reconnect with the present it helps to improve your focus and your ability to manage stress.

Steps of Notice and Reconnect

  1. Slow down and connect with your body. Take a few gentle, deep breaths in and out. Imagine your breath flowing in and flowing out.

  2. Notice what you’re feeling and thinking. 

  3. Silently name what you're feeling and thinking. For example: 

    “I feel heaviness in my chest” or, “I notice a lot of tension in my shoulders” or “I feel down” or “I feel worried” or, “I notice I’m feeling angry”

    “What’s causing my pain?” “or “I wonder if I’ll be able to finish my project” or “I’ll never get better” or “I’m thinking about the days I was in the hospital”

  4. Continue taking slow, deep breaths.

  5. Reconnect with the world around you. Focus on the here and now. Notice where you are. Are you alone or are others with you? Notice what you’re doing. Use all of your senses. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste? For example:

    • What do you see? Look at your surroundings, what can you see? Count something, e.g. the cars that pass by, the clouds in the sky. Describe an object that you see e.g. a flower, a piece of furniture.

    • What do you hear? Listen to the sounds around you, e.g. the washing machine, the television in the background, people’s voices, etc. What are the voices like?

    • What do you feel? Your clothing. What does the fabric feel like? The surface beneath you. Is it soft or hard? Warm or cool?

    • What do you smell? Food cooking? An unpleasant odor? A pleasant scent? Fresh air? 

    • What can you taste? Is it sweet, sour, salty, umami (savory), bitter? Do you have chewing gum or a mint in your mouth? Are you drinking coffee or tea? What did you eat last?

  6. It’s okay if you go back to difficult feelings or thoughts. Make space for them. Just let them be. Be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself or your feelings and thoughts.

  7. Reconnect and refocus on the world around you as in Step 4.

Practicing Notice and Reconnect

You can use everyday activities to practice your focusing skills. You’ll be ready when you want to set difficult thoughts and feelings aside and reconnect with the now. For example, stay focused when:

  • On a phone call with a friend: focus on their voice - is it soft or loud; what they’re saying; what emotions they’re conveying; just listen; don’t think about what you’re going to say; be there fully for your friend. If you begin to think of something else, refocus on your friend

  • Taking a sip of water - Is the water cold, room temperature; What do you taste? Does it have any color? Does it have a smell? How does it feel in your mouth? How does it feel as you swallow? If your mind wanders, refocus on the drink of water.

Practice focusing throughout the day. Whatever you’re doing, be fully present for it. The more you practice, the better equipped you’ll be to use the technique to lessen stress and worry.