Recognise the symptoms of trauma

The increased levels of stress caused by the pandemic can have lasing effects. Mariska Morris looks at how selfcare can help and when to seek professional help

Stress and anxiety are ever present in the lives of many South Africans. It could be stress about their job security or their struggle to adapt to working from home. Or they could feel anxious about contracting COVID, seeing friends and family hospitalised or death. For nearly a year and a half, South Africans had to manage this additional strain on their mental health with no end in sight for the pandemic or lockdowns.

For some, this stress and anxiety simply led to a few “lockdown kilograms” around their belly, while others are feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope with all the information, stress and anxiety piled on them. Either way, it is important to practise some selfcare to protect against poor mental health, whether this could mean feeling a little down or suffering a complete depressive episode.

What is selfcare

Selfcare means very different things for different people, but, in essence, it refers to practicing good habits that keep your body, mind and spirit healthy. A big portion of selfcare is indulging in activities that you enjoy, such as hobbies, or taking time to relax. But, it is also about practicing those habits that are less important, but vital, such as exercising.

Basics to selfcare

Each person needs to adapt their selfcare routine for their own personalities. For example, one person might want to sit in a warm bubble bath for an hour to destress, while another simply wants to take a refreshing shower. While selfcare is a very individualised activity, there are some basics that everyone should incorporate into their selfcare routine:

  • Healthy meals: Whether you opts for a salad or salmon and veggies, it is important to keep a healthy, balanced diet. There can be cheat days, but people are encouraged to eat balanced the majority of the time.
  • Exercise: It can be intense weight training or simply walking around the block. Any good selfcare routine should include at least 30-minutes of exercise a day. Consider swapping between intense exercising and moderate exercising, like yoga or walking.
  • Sleep: A crucial part of any healthy routine, there should also be enough time to sleep. If necessary, include some other selfcare activities into your pre-sleep routine to help you fall asleep, such as drinking chamomile tea or meditating.
  • Breaks or relaxing: These breaks can be used to practice hobbies or indulge in other pleasures. However, be wary of any activity that might cause additional pressure or stress. Scrolling through social media, for example, can cause more harm than good.

When to seek professional help

Unfortunately, selfcare can only do so much to assist with caring for your mental health. Individuals who are struggling to manage their stress and anxiety levels might need to seek further professional help. This can be especially true for those who are more susceptible to trauma. Without addressing trauma, people can suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during which trauma can manifest and remain with the individuals for many years to come.

Identifying PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD include: refusing to talk about incidents; feeling emotionally numb; and withdrawing from friends and family. It also often manifest as other mental health disorders such as anxiety, bipolar or depression. Further symptoms can include: drug or alcohol dependency; distressing thoughts or memories; sleeping difficulties; guilt or hyper-alertness.

While you should immediately contact a mental health professional if you show symptoms of PTSD, it shouldn’t be the only reason to reach out. If you are at all feeling stuck or overwhelmed with your stress, anxiety or general mental health, reach out to a mental health professional for further assistance.

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