After an improvement in the summer, the corona situation is now coming to a head again. It feels a bit like a spring 2020 déjà vu. What does the “second wave” do to its own psyche?Restrictions were relaxed, the number of cases fell: In the summer, the specter of the Corona seemed to lose its threat.
But it was never gone, that is now becoming clear, as more people are infected again and politics is taking countermeasures.
Such a back and forth is stressful for the psyche, says the psychotherapist and author Mirriam Prieß.
In the interview, she explains why the shorter days are making it even worse and how you can manage the situation in the best possible way
Ms. Prieß, increasing numbers of cases and more restrictions: The corona crisis is coming to a head again. What does that do to the psyche?
Mirriam Prieß: Every up and down and every back and forth is a problem for the psyche. The more often this happens – from one extreme to the next extreme – the more stressful it is Psyche.
The more resilient a person is, the more able they are to face crises and existential threats on an equal footing and to make the best of them.
However, the more this resilience is lacking, the more likely it is to react to crises with different psychosomatic symptoms – with anxiety disorders or depression, but also with exhaustion syndromes up to burnout.
Does the fact that the crisis now move into autumn and winter intensify the problems? Do the consequences of the corona cause more mental problems at this time of year than in spring?
Priess: There are certainly several aspects that play a role here. On the one hand, we are already weakened.
We have already lived through the crisis – combined with the hope that it will be over and through. Now comes a repetition and that is always very stressful.
In addition: When the days get shorter and darker, this has a negative effect on the mood of many people. To be confronted with the restrictions and the threats again in a dark season: this combination is a heavy burden.
How do you know if the crisis is causing you more psychological problems than is good?
Priess: Affected people notice from various symptoms that their own stress limit has been exceeded. On the behavioral level, the more stressed a person is, the first thing that takes place is a strong fight against it.
In the end there is social withdrawal and social isolation. On the emotional level, inner restlessness, fear and tension begin – this can lead to panic.
The longer the stress lasts, the result is emotional exhaustion, depressive exhaustion and resignation, which makes it increasingly difficult to cope with the situation. On the mental level, brooding is a typical symptom of stress.
At the body level, the immune system no longer works as well as it used to. The more a person struggles in his life and the higher the psychological pressure, the more it weakens the body’s defenses.
Back pain, Stomach problems, poor circulation, tinnitus, allergy attacks: depending on where those affected have physical weaknesses, the stress situation becomes noticeable.
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Which strategies help to stay mentally up to date and not let it get that far?
Priess: Resilience, the inner, psychological resistance, arises from an inner and outer ability to dialogue. Everyone can reduce stress by staying in dialogue with themselves.
That means: actively paying attention to how he is doing, reacting to disturbances in good time and consulting a doctor in good time if there are physical symptoms.
It is also important to maintain a dialogue about your own stress: within the family or among friends. If you feel that there is no relief, you should also seek professional therapeutic help.
The problem is that crises are compounded by the fact that people feel ashamed to talk about the fears. That they withdraw and isolate instead of seeking help.
As a result, the symptoms continue to increase and the crisis intensifies.
A central point is to strengthen the relationship with yourself and to take some time every day in which you can calm down and ask yourself whether you will get your money’s worth in this tense situation and what you could actually do, to relieve yourself and do something good for yourself.
Burnout, especially in crises, always arises when those affected fight against what is instead of pausing and ensuring a balanced balance between giving and taking.
Would you recommend this in general? So not only when it crunches, but when you really still feel good so that it doesn’t get worse?
Priess: Yes. The following applies: disturbances always have priority. The moment I have a disruptive feeling, I should get to the bottom of it.
This is a central way of preventing crises and burnout: Many problems would not arise if we react in good time and with foresight.
And you should always look where and how you can strengthen yourself. There are six crucial areas in life: health, family and partnership, professional, social contacts, the area of individuality and the area of faith. It is essential to fill these six areas of life.
That sounds pretty complicated. Most people are probably not even aware of these six areas. How would you practically translate that?
Priess: Take the area of family and partnership: Successful relationships strengthen inner resilience.
To consciously take time for us and the partnership, to speak openly about one’s own worries, to spend time together and to do things wherever possible.
Crisis management is characterized by actively looking at what you can do to strengthen yourself in seemingly uncontrollable situations. And a lot is possible there.
Meetings with friends are sometimes difficult to implement in Corona times. Assuming that there are more restrictions again: Many people would be faced with the problem of isolation again. What would you advise them to do?
Priess: It is then all the more important to actively maintain social contacts. Whether virtually or through regular phone calls.
Especially in places where the usual meeting places and activities no longer exist, relationships should be cultivated in a targeted manner as far as possible.
So actively inquire: “How are you?” But also make his needs clear: “Do you have an ear? I want to talk to you.”
How do you get the bugbear Corona out of your head in everyday life? Can it be hidden?
Priess: I can understand what you mean by fading out. But the moment you want to hide something, it shows itself to you all the time. Tackling it makes the situation worse and ends in exhaustion.
It is important to face the crisis on an equal footing and to remain realistic. The more I get lost in the emotions, the more uncontrollable the situation becomes.
The corona crisis always touches people’s unconscious fears and unresolved crises. One woman told me that the lockdown reminded her of her divorce. From one day to the next she stood there completely alone.
That means: We are confronted with old, unprocessed feelings from previous impotence and crisis situations, which however have nothing to do with the current situation. To be aware of this and to react actively to it is a very central point.
Dr. Mirriam Prieß is a doctor and psychotherapist. she has several books written and advises companies, among other things, in the field of health management and burnout prevention.