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date: 18 October 2021

Afterword in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemicfree

Afterword in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemicfree

  • Barbara O. Rothbaum
  •  and Sheila A. M. Rauch

p. 159As we are going to press with PTSD: What Everyone Needs to Know, we are in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Today there are 1,237,420 confirmed cases globally, 321,762 in the United States, with over 67,000 deaths to date. We know we are in the thick of it, but we do not know exactly where we are in it. Most of us in the United States know that we have not reached the apex yet.

These are such uncertain and frightening times for everyone. Front line healthcare workers are feeling like they are in a war zone. They are overwhelmed with sick patients, inadequate supplies, no proven treatments, and sick and dying colleagues. Many have described that they feel like they are in the World War I approach to combat: The first wave moves in a line toward the enemy and gets shot down, and the second wave emerges to approach the enemy knowing that they are also likely to be shot down.

Fear and anxiety are normal in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not want to pathologize this normal fear and anxiety. We hope that people can use their good coping skills to deal with this unprecedented situation. These include eating properly, sleeping properly, exercising, taking breaks to recharge, maintaining social contacts even if they must be at a distance, being compassionate to ourselves and others, and keeping our thinking rational.

p. 160There are many who are experiencing excessive fear, anxiety, depression, and feelings of being totally overwhelmed. If people had mental health difficulties prior to this pandemic, we suggest using what worked previously and reaching out to your mental health providers who are likely providing services via telemedicine. It is important to keep the perspective that this will end at some point. We don’t know when and we don’t know how bad it will be yet. But even with the overwhelming numbers of people falling ill with COVID-19, most people are recovering and surviving and eventually thriving again. Making the decision to trust that it will probably turn out OK for most of us in the end is a healthy decision. Stay present in the moment and do what you need to do. This always includes breathing! When you don’t know what to do, breathe and keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you are left with lingering anxiety that is interfering with your current functioning, we hope this book can help if you think it might be PTSD. The same approaches we discuss here should help. For those without PTSD, this book may give you some perspective on what others are feeling. Remember to talk to others about what you are experiencing and get help if you need it.

Although the precautions to slow down the transmission of COVID-19 call for physical distancing, we are all in this together, and we will get through this together. As we are faced with a threat to humanity, it is important to retain our shared humanity, compassion, optimism, and commitment to help. Stay calm and carry on!

Barbara O. Rothbaum

Sheila A. M. Rauch

April 5, 2020